Green Buildings

2013 is proving to be a critical year in the shaping of a future electricity market for Hong Kong. While the Government will soon review the "scheme of control" agreements (SOC) with the city's two power companies, an inter-departmental steering committee has been established to map out strategies for green building development. These two power companies dominate the city's power supply and shape the supply and demand of the electricity market.

Buildings consume 90% of this electricity, and "green buildings" are a silver bullet to reform the Hong Kong electricity market. These buildings will save a vast amount of energy and release the tension that currently exists between environmental protection and electricity prices. By 2020, green buildings will reduce Hong Kong's carbon emissions to a 2005 level and reduce the electricity tariff by 2%. 

Greenpeace collaborated with the City University of Hong Kong to research and evaluate the impact of green buildings on the Hong Kong electricity market. The research found green buildings reduce electricity demand, control carbon emission levels and cut back tariff growth. With 100% of buildings green by 2020, Hong Kong can slash 9.4 billion kWh of electricity consumption and save $10.4 billion of natural gas expenses. On average, each citizen would save $1500 on his or her electricity bill each year. 

Some would say that greening all buildings by 2020 is an impossible task. However, even with  more modest targets the outcomes are still impressive. With 38% of buildings green, we can cut down 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions and keep CO2 emissions at the 2005 level. And with just 28% of buildings green by 2020, Hong Kong can maintain stability of electricity supply without expanding power turbines. This will affect the power companies' $5.7 billion investment into the construction of natural gas power plants, and which resulted in a 2% growth reduction of future electricity prices. From the complexity of these figures it becomes clear: "green buildings" is a key part of reforming the Hong Kong's electricity market. 

Looking abroad, Singapore has been even more aggressive in developing green buildings. In 2008, the Singapore government passed a law stipulating that all new buildings must achieve a Green Mark rating (similar to the BEAM Plus rating in Hong Kong); meanwhile all government buildings must, at a minimum, qualify for the Green Mark Gold Plus rating (the second highest rating). They have also announced a goal to make 80% of all buildings by 2030 meet these green ratings and to do so are providing incentives and offering grants to building owners.

Now is the time for the Hong Kong government to build our green future. Reform will only take flight when we bring the SOC and green buildings together, and draw up plans for a future electricity market. The Hong Kong government should set a goal to achieve 40% of buildings green by 2020 and impose an Energy Efficiency Obligation in SOC that stipulate the city's two power companies are bound to energy saving targets. 

This year will be a turning point for Hong Kong. If we miss this chance to review our electricity market and include a green building strategy, in the future the people of Hong Kong people are destined to suffer ongoing electricity tariff hikes. For a greener future, we have the solution; all that's left is action from our government. Please join us in demanding reform of electricity market.

Image © Clement Tang / Greenpeace