Hong Kong: Greater energy-saving efforts are expected

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If the Hong Kong government is serious about combating climate change, one way to do so is to include green building policies to cut energy consumption and reduce our carbon footprint.

Buildings account for 90 per cent of our total electricity consumption. So by setting energy-saving targets for a majority of buildings, and lowering energy consumption in its own offices, the government would provide a good lead for society to follow.

However, in his latest policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying announced a mere 5 per cent savings target in electricity consumption for government buildings in the coming five years – a rather low objective, to say the least.

We expected Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing to have pressed for greater reductions, especially as he is an architect with experience in designing energy-efficient buildings, including the zero-carbon building in Kowloon Bay, before he joined the government.

In 2006, then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen pledged to cut electricity consumption by 1.5 per cent a year in government buildings, causing us to comment on his lack of commitment. We launched the annual “Power Smart” energy-saving contest that same year, setting a 2 per cent cut as the minimum criterion for participants to promote energy conservation in the commercial and domestic sectors.

In the same year, the Legislative Council building and the Central Government Offices competed with each other to cut energy use in a year. The results showed that the Legco building managed to cut its electricity use by 20 per cent, and the Central Government Offices achieved a 13.7 per cent saving, which were both encouraging.

The contest simply demonstrated that if one is committed enough, good results are possible.

Since its launch, our energy-saving contest has brought about a cumulative saving of more than 220 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. At a ceremony last month, the director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, Frank Chan, encouraged Hongkongers to treasure every kilowatt-hour, saying that Power Smart had sowed the seeds of a green culture in society.

Power Smart is a voluntary scheme, but we have spread the message throughout society. The city’s two power companies have supported the contest by encouraging their clients to participate, and lower electricity bills is their reward.

The top school in last year’s contest was Tung Wah College, which demonstrated its success with a low-investment-with-high-returns energy conservation strategy. It invested HK$20,000 in window films and curtains, while also monitoring and adjusting the lighting and temperature settings.

After carrying out the changes, the school cut electricity consumption by 18 per cent, which brought savings of more than HK$40,000 per month on its electricity bill.

Under the requirements of the Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance, 1,796 buildings had completed their energy audits as of last month, and are required to display prominently the relevant information.

Building owners and tenants would benefit from being able to view data on a government website, comparing building performance. This would encourage more improvements.
The government should allow annual updates of the data, rather than the current practice of every 10 years.

The government is moving in the right direction by setting an energy-saving target for its buildings in an effort to combat climate change. However, the target is too conservative and if it also included other buildings, the entire city would benefit substantially.

Source: South China Morning Post

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