Bulk energy users may see tariff: Secretary

Updated: 2013-01-24 07:10

By Timothy Chui (HK Edition)

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Proposal to extend the principle of "polluter-pay" to bulk energy consumers are getting mixed reviews. While some believe the extended terms would help to cut pollution, others express the fear that higher corporate costs will be passed to consumers.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said on Wednesday that the government will be looking at extending progressive energy tariffs to include households and commercial bulk energy purchasers later this year.

Hong Kong's households already are subject to a tiered system which has proportionately heavier charges for the highest consumers.

The mid-year review could effectively toss out bulk energy purchases in Hong Kong which already enjoys lower charges than neighboring cities.

Wong added any extension would not be a "one-size-fits-all" solution, arguing that applying household energy rates to high energy consumers would not be feasible.

He said increased fees for high level users such as hospitals and the city's subway system could result in higher costs for end-users.

Greenpeace campaigner Prentice Koo Wai-muk called the suggestion a big step toward more equitable charges for energy consumption.

"We've been campaigning for this for the better half of two years, but I worry that any implementation could still be years away. The path will be fraught with challenges because this will affect the interests of many powerful corporate stakeholders. It remains to be seen how passionate the government will be about reining in emissions."

Addressing concerns that rises in costs would be passed to consumers, Koo said the move would spur major energy consumers such as shopping malls to find other avenues of energy cost savings through greater efficiency.

He said exceptions should be made for public enterprises, while entities such as the Mass Transit Railway Corporation which also has major real estate holdings should not have their strictly commercial interests exempted.

Koo said perhaps the biggest hurdle to the move would be the city's energy oligarchy, China Light and Power and Hong Kong Electric.

A Hong Kong Electric spokeswoman said the company already had a progressive energy tariff to encourage energy efficiency among non-domestic customers.

Director of Hong Kong Baptist University's Energy Studies Centre Larry Chow Chuen-ho said the current system rewards corporate users for consuming more electricity.

"The so-called bulk customers pay a lower average tariff the more units they use. The government will meet very strong industry resistance (if it imposes a higher rate) and this will definitely raise the cost of doing business," he said.

tim@chinadailyhk.com

(HK Edition 01/24/2013 page1)