Hong Kong's first 'energy poverty lab' simulates limited access to electricity

City's first 'energy poverty lab' simulates the effects of limited access to affordable electricity

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 April, 2015, 11:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 April, 2015, 1:48pm

Their winters feel abnormally cold, the summers sweltering hot and their electricity bills never seem to be close to affordable.

More than 140,000 Hong Kong households live in cramped, stuffy conditions where power expenses exceed a tenth of their incomes, according to the World Green Organisation.

The green group - with the help of developer Hip Shing Hong - is hoping to give the public a taste of this by setting up what it calls the city's first "energy poverty lab" in Hung Hom.

The group says the lab, which allows visitors to try living with limited electricity, will help highlight the plight of the city's disenfranchised who live under the so-called energy poverty line.

"They are living in cramped spaces under the scarcity of energy supply," said the organisation's chief executive, Dr William Yu Yuen-ping, of those for whom electricity is unaffordable.

The aim "is to help the participants understand that electricity doesn't come easy and we have to treasure and make the most out of a limited energy supply," Yu said.

Those who live in subdivided flats for instance, are often charged higher electricity tariffs by their landlords, who also don't pass on rebates offered by power firms. Many have to make do with a minimum of power use.

Visitors to the lab will be given a set of tasks to simulate daily challenges of those living under such conditions - such as having to complete several energy-consuming tasks with a finite electricity supply in a given time. It will also provide tips on energy saving and cost efficiency.

One task requires participant to boil water while charging their mobile phone; another requires answering maths questions in a very noisy environment.

Louisa Yeung and her seven-year-old daughter Samantha Yeung tried it last week. "I wanted to bring her here to see that there are actually people living in these conditions," Yeung said. "There are people that have only one plug in their entire home and do not even have electric fans."