HONG KONG – Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan, during his April 17 Beijing visit, reiterated that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government will strengthen regional cooperation in clean energy, so as to lead Hong Kong towards the goal of carbon neutrality and to fit in the country's planning and development of energy and decarbonization.
True, Hong Kong desperately needs regional cooperation to import more zero-carbon energy at the moment because the city cannot decarbonize entirely by itself at a reasonable cost and timeframe. It makes sense to cooperate with neighboring regions to import clean energy to decarbonize rapidly.
The government already has initiated discussions with the National Energy Administration on issues relating to regional zero-carbon energy cooperation, including joint investment in and development of zero-carbon energy projects near Hong Kong, echoing Hong Kong Legislative Council members’ call for energy cooperation between Hong Kong and other cities in Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Other stakeholders however think otherwise.
Though it is difficult to develop large-scale renewable energy in Hong Kong due to the expansive land cost, the city can still produce a certain level of renewable energy that can cater to local energy consumption needs. As a coastal city surrounded by the South China Sea and with a tropical climate, the city should progressively increase the ratio of solar and wind power in its energy source mix.
Stakeholders are worried that since the mainland has a significant decarbonization requirement, the Greater Bay Area may not have the potential to generate excessive renewable energy which Hong Kong can import.
Even if Hong Kong can import green energy from the Bay Area, this would not necessarily guarantee that electricity would be cheaper either because heavy capital investment is required to build new infrastructure across the border at the upstream level to facilitate energy import.
The SAR government has pledged to increase the share of renewable energy in the fuel mix for electricity generation to between 7.5 and 10 percent by 2035 and to 15 percent gradually thereafter. Renewable energy currently accounts for less than 1 percent of the fuel mix for electricity generation.
Environmental industry stakeholders agree that beefing up infrastructure, reducing building energy consumption, providing financial subsidies, and reforming the city’s electricity market are recipes for increasing renewable energy as a fuel mix source.
It becomes clear that even though regional energy cooperation with the mainland is feasible, Hong Kong should develop local renewable energy sources to push its decarbonization drive and energy source diversification. It’s because renewables are immune to geopolitics, and Hong Kong has the resources to develop solar and wind energy and demonstrates a proactive stance in shifting to renewables.
Oswald Chan is a veteran business journalist and joined China Daily as a senior business news reporter in 2010. He covers various issues pertinent to the development of Hong Kong economy. He can be reached at email@example.com.