Green Finance Advisor of Friends of the Earth (HK)
As discussed in my previous article, power & energy industries is one of the two primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong. Noticeably, about 60% of our emissions comes from power and energy industries and majority of that come from electricity. Mitigating the climate risk of Hong Kong requires a significant cut of our electricity’s carbon footprint.
On the supply side, sourcing more power from alternative energy is a must. The good thing is that the Hong Kong Government is working on this. As mentioned in its Climate Action Plan 2050, the Hong Kong Government targets to increase the share of renewable energy from less than 1% now to 7.5% in the medium term and further to 10% by 2035 and 15% in the longer run. Some of the alternative energy projects in the plan include offshore wind farms and floating solar power systems in reservoirs. Despite the ambition, the development of these projects has been moving relatively slow. Harnessing renewable energy is only part of the Hong Kong government’s plan to achieve carbon neutral before 2050. Considering the geographical limitations, it is very challenging for Hong Kong to use 100% renewable energy.
Expansion of electricity fired by gas (equipped with lower carbon technologies) and nuclear energy, which now generated in aggregate about three quarters of Hong Kong power, is clearly in within the considerations of the government, according to its Climate Action Plan 2050. That said, these two energy options generally face different types of oppositions, I suggest the Hong Kong government to begin public consultation and socializing their plans. This can help understand more about the options we have and the consequence of inaction.
The demand for energy also needs to be reduced in order for Hong Kong to cut its greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Noticeably, about 90% of our electricity use goes to buildings and that air conditioning takes up the largest share (24%) of commercial energy use. One interesting observation is the year-round addiction of Hong Kong shopping malls to air conditioning. (I always need to wear an extra jacket in Hong Kong shopping malls.) Comparatively, it is far more pleasant walking in the shopping malls in Singapore, Tokyo and many other Asian cities. I highly recommend the owners of the commercial properties to retrofit the HVAC (Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) of their existing buildings and to make the most use of shading, paints, materials and other elements, and less air-conditioners, to make new buildings stay cool. This will benefit not only the planet but also save their power bills and improve their sustainability image.
After air-conditioning, lighting is the second largest energy user, consuming 15% of the electricity of Hong Kong. Our lighting pollution is much worse than many major cities such as London, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai. Commercial segment is again unfriendly to our environment and is a key abuser of lights. The lack of lighting control regulation is arguably a major cause. Showing the support to the Earth Hour by switching off your light an hour a year is far from enough.