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In response to a public consultation on Future Fuel Mix for Electricity Generation that is currently underway and to address public concerns on the foregoing, the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA) today (June 9) held a seminar on “Future Energy Solutions for Hong Kong”. Mr. Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for the Environment; Mr. Vincent Liu Ming-kwong, Deputy Secretary for the Environment; Professor Way Kuo, President of the City University of Hong Kong; Professor Raymond So Wai-man, Dean of School of Business and a professor of finance at the Hang Seng Management College; Mr. Clement Chen Cheng-jen, Chairman of the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC); Mrs. Betty Yuen So Siu-mai, Vice Chairman of CLP Power Hong Kong; and Mr. Wan Chi-tin, CEO and Managing Director of Hong Kong Electric (HEC) were invited to attend the seminar as keynote speakers and panelists.
During the seminar, they addressed the issues of energy autonomy, pricing trends, natural gas supply and cost, and carbon emissions from the standpoint of the various constituencies that they represented.
In his welcome address, Mr. Jeffrey Lam Kin-Fung, BPA Vice-Chairman, urged the Government to broaden the range of options made available for public consideration given criticisms that the two proposed arrangements did not represent much of a choice.
The Secretary for the Environment said that either options presented unique advantages. He added that the issues of reliability, affordability and the environment would definitely be taken into account should the Government chose to purchase power from the China Southern Power Grid Company (CSG). He also explained that Hong Kong was not comparable to Macau in the context of importing electricity from the Mainland as given under Option 1 because of the lower demand for energy, which puts us in a stronger bargaining position.
According to Professor Guo, society should deliberate carefully on the merits and demerits of each of the proposed options. He pointed out that Hong Kong should invest more effort and resources into research and development (R&D) with the objective of developing alternative sources of energy. He noted that in contrast to the major strides in technology adoption, R&D investment in Hong Kong has been quite modest. On the other hand, Professor So said that mere reliance on hard data as a means of comparing the proposed options was inadequate for decision-making purposes and suggested that soft information such as the public’s receptiveness should be considered as well.
In addressing public’s concern with the “grid purchase” option, Mrs. Yuen emphasised that Hong Kong had hitherto enjoyed energy autonomy, which could be compromised if we were to meet future energy demand by importing 30 per cent of electricity from CSG. This would be tantamount to surrendering regulatory oversight and our prerogative on fuel and technology selection to an outside party. As such, there was a real need for the Government to reassess the viability of this option.
Mr. Wan regarded Option 2 as being more acceptable. He pointed out that CSG’s customers suffered an average of 3.2 hours in unplanned power interruption in 2012 while HKE’s customers experienced less than one minute of unforeseen outage during the same period. He stressed the importance of maintaining a consistent and reliable supply of power that was on par with international standards, which he described as being critical to the preservation of Hong Kong’s status as a global financial centre. He said that HKE was committed to upholding its pledge of not raising tariffs within the next five years as natural gas prices were unlikely to increase significantly over that time.
Mr. Chen spoke on the issue from a consumer’s perspective. He said that the consultation document left a lot to be desired and suggested that the Government should provide further options such as extending the life of existing coal-fired generating units in the near term and raising the share of nuclear energy as a total of our power needs over the longer term. He added that purchasing electricity from CSG would also result in a transfer of our emission responsibilities across the border, which he described as fallacious and irresponsible.
Dr. Lo Wai-Kwok, BPA Vice-chairman and moderator of the panel discussion session, stressed the importance of seeking equilibrium between economic development and environmental protection. He was also hopeful of a balanced and rational discussion amongst stakeholders to identify a solution that was in the overall interests of Hong Kong.
Today’s seminar attracted more than 200 participants who were actively engaged in and contributed to a compelling discussion. The public consultation on the Future Fuel Mix for Electricity Generation will end on June 18 and the BPA will submit its views before the deadline.