Hong Kong’s plan to sell solar power into grid should not be set up to fail 

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 2:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 10:35pm

The feed-in tariff is a green element in the government’s new scheme of control agreements with Hong Kong’s two power companies, and the tariff details were announced last month. With an attractive price of HK$3 (US$0.38) to HK$5 per kilowatt-hour, this should help Hong Kong reach a higher renewable energy target than the 3-4 per cent proposed in the government’s Climate Action Plan 2030+.

But it is difficult to see a smooth path ahead for anyone who wants to apply. 

Firstly, CLP Power will start receiving applications from May 4, an unreasonably tight deadline for preparing complicated documents.

Secondly, potential investors doubt if it is possible to obtain approval as well as design, build and connect the renewable energy system to the grid by October 1 (the start date of CLP’s new scheme of control agreement), to reap the best return until 2033. 

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Thirdly, there are still unresolved issues such as height restriction for additional structures on roofs. 

I am not suggesting that we lower safety standards regarding such structures. But it is surprising that another set of regulations and guidelines governing renewable energy system installation should still be missing at this late stage. 

A potentially huge contributor to the tariff scheme could have been the around 60,000 village houses in the New Territories. But the current 1.5-meter height restriction for structures built on roofs is a huge disincentive.

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These innovative suggestions are worth considering:

Fit solar panels on the roofs of public transport depots, data centres and open car parks;

Turn agricultural and deserted land into an agriculture/solar hybrid farms; and

Encourage public participation by developing renewable energy systems on government properties, lands and reservoirs, and by creating a green bond for residents to contribute and earn a stable return on green investment.

Besides individual house owners, utility companies and listed companies should be the first group to demonstrate their commitment to driving Hong Kong towards a low-carbon economy. 

Edwin Lau Che-feng, executive director, The Green Earth