Hong Kong’s climate change strategy
The Paris Agreement was signed in December 2015. Establishing a clear direction and objectives to tackle global climate change, the agreement took effect on 4 November, 2016 after being ratified by 196 countries. These countries, which include China, the United States and the entire European Union, have promised to keep the global temperature increase to “well below 2°C” in order to alleviate the worst impacts of climate change on both humans and the environment.
As a signatory to the agreement, Hong Kong needs to do our part by developing a holistic plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Two key actions we need to take are increasing the ratio of renewable energy in our electricity generation fuel mix and enhancing energy efficiency across the board.
Today, over 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels, while renewable energy makes up only about 0.1% of our fuel mix. Making this situation worse is the fact that the government has set no renewable energy targets, meaning that we are currently lagging far behind the rest of the international community. Although the government has proposed gradually increasing the use of natural gas as a replacement for coal, this will not be enough to hold down the global temperature increase. The Hong Kong government must go further by increasing investment in renewable energy and establishing tangible development targets to facilitate a comprehensive energy turnaround.
Solar energy: enormous potential
Given our geographical position and our location in the tropics, Hong Kong is exposed to a lot of solar radiation: an average of about 1,350 kilowatt hours (kWh) per square metre, comparable with other nearby regions like Macau, Taiwan and southern China. This amount of sunlight makes Hong Kong a suitable place to install rooftop solar energy photovoltaic systems.
Research on solar power conducted by Hong Kong Polytechnic in 2013 shows that if Hong Kong widely develops rooftop solar energy installations, it could generate upwards of four billion kWh, about one per cent of Hong Kong’s energy requirements. Developing our solar energy potential will also create cost efficiencies which will spur our transformation to green energy and build our reputation as a green city.
The choice of power, generate by ourselves
WWF-Hong Kong is a leading force in distributed renewable energy. In June 2016, with the approval of Tai O residents we began our “Solarizing Communities” project which aims to popularize small-scale rooftop solar energy systems. The first phase of this project involved installing three on-grid solar photovoltaic systems on the rooftops of three residences. The total system size is 6 kW and it generates 6,000 to 7,000 kWh of power annually, providing a clean source of energy to power household appliances and community lighting systems.
We also installed a series of online monitoring systems and a wi-fi weather station connected to the Hong Kong Observatory; these record the power output of each system and correlate changes in weather with system performance to ensure stability and record the amount of power generated. The energy produced by this small-scale project is helping residents reduce their electricity bills and allowing them put a sustainable, low-carbon lifestyle into action.
WWF’s aim for Hong Kong is to help transform this consumption-oriented metropolis into low-carbon city and eventually a zero-carbon city. To reach this goal, support from both business and the public is crucial. Without the backing of everyone, this dream cannot become a reality.
From the commercial side, improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions are both important. But to go above and beyond, WWF is encouraging companies to invest in and promote local renewable energy projects, as this will allow them to obtain part of their electricity supply from renewable sources. WWF is now offering Hong Kong’s first-ever Renewable Energy Certificate. By applying for a certificate, businesses will be able to offset part of their carbon emissions and prove that part of their operational energy supply comes from a renewable source. The funds raised from the sale of these certificates will be used to promote local solar energy projects, driving the “solarization” of Hong Kong forward.
From the individual point of view, we can examine the potential of installing renewable energy systems on our rooftops, terraces or elsewhere. We can also choose to use energy-efficient appliances and find ways to reduce energy consumption in our daily lives.
We can choosing to generate our own power!
Looking ahead, the government must develop a renewable energy blueprint and policies to boost the growth of this market. WWF has several recommendations to make before the government and Hong Kong’s two power companies sign a new Scheme of Control Agreement next year:
- The government should set up renewable energy objectives. WWF recommends that not less than five per cent of Hong Kong’s power supply should come from local renewable energy sources before 2030.
- The government and the power companies should agree to a standard offer to purchase electricity from all renewable systems linked to the grid, and provide a reasonable rate of return to parties feeding power to the grid.
- The government should provide subsidies for the installation of renewable energy systems to encourage citizens and enterprises to install these systems.
1 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) (2016). Paris Agreement- Status of Rectification. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9444.php
2 Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) (2016). Hong Kong Energy End use data 2016”.http://www.emsd.gov.hk/filemanager/en/content_762/HKEEUD2016.pdf
3 Peng, J.Q.; Lu, L.(2013) Investigation on the development potential of rooftop PV system in Hong Kong and its environmental benefits. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364032113004073
4 Central Policy Unit;s (CPU’s)(2013). Study on the Development Potential and Energy Incentives of Rooftop Solar Photovoltic Applications in Hong Kong. http://www.cpu.gov.hk/en/public_policy_research/pdf/2013_A6_010_13A_Final_Report_Dr_Lu.pdf
5 WWF-Hong Kong (2016). First company to achieve “Net Zero Carbon Office” under WWF’s climate business programmes Hong Kong’s first renewable energy certificate to support community solar. http://wwf.hk/LOOPceremony2016
6 WWF- Hong Kong (2015). “Hong Kong Energy Vision 2050”: solution for climate change. http://www.wwf.org.hk/news/?13120