What Hong Kong can do differently as power bills rise
- Turning to the use of coal is not the answer, with the world – Hong Kong included – facing the worrying scenario of sea level rise
- Across the city, however, home dwellers, commercial landlords and tenants can do their bit to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions
These are the highest increases I can recall in 60 years. Well-off people would not feel much financial pain, but for low-income households, it is a different story. They may have to cut spending on other essential items to cope.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists in the United States, the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide broke a record this year. As measured at the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Hawaii, the concentration of the gas reached nearly 421 parts per million (ppm) in May, an increase of 1.8 ppm over 2021. These levels have been described as comparable to the Pliocene Climatic Optimum, more than 4 million years ago, when sea levels were between 5 to 25 metres higher than today.
It is a worrying scenario to imagine, that of Hong Kong facing a sea level rise of more than 5 metres on a more permanent basis. The MTR networks which most of us rely on for daily commuting might be disrupted by flooding, not to mention the impact on road traffic.
As fuel prices are more likely to rise than fall in the future, one practical solution is to conserve energy. There are steps anybody can take with or without extra cost involved.
For example, turning up the thermostat of your air conditioning system at home or work in summer by at least 1 degree Celsius will help save on electricity by 10 per cent. If the relative humidity of the indoor environment can be lowered by using a desiccant dehumidifier instead of air conditioning, you will find it is still comfortable at 26 degrees, thus saving even more electricity.
Energy-saving devices such as vacuum insulated glass can be fitted behind the glass facade to lower solar radiation that otherwise will warm up the room.
Landlords of commercial buildings charge tenants an air-conditioning fee on top of the management fee. The air-conditioning fee is usually based on the area of occupied space rather than the actual cool air usage. This provides no incentive for tenants to conserve energy by reducing their use of air conditioning.
If tenants are billed according to actual cool air usage, I believe many will adjust the temperature setting, which tends to be cold, instead of comfortable, in places like restaurants, cinemas and offices.
Landlords would also save huge amounts on their electricity bill by raising slightly the water temperature of the chiller. This collaborative effort would help slash carbon emissions from buildings too.
Edwin Lau Che-feng is executive director of The Green Earth