Following is the speech (English only) by the Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works, Dr Sarah Liao, at the Ceremony for the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau to sign up Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) today (January 25):
Mr Bradley, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you this evening and to sign up to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) on behalf of the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau of the HKSAR Government.
The invention of modern steam engines by Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcome and James Watt in the 18th Century drove not only motors, pumps, wheels, machines, but also the Industrial Revolution in Europe. The spread of electrification from Europe to the other parts of the world since the early 1900s further accelerated the modernization and automation of the world.
Thanks to the innovation and creativity of these and other great inventors, with a simple press of button, we now can have light on at any time at any place. With a simple press of button, we can travel between heights. With a simple press of button, we can communicate with friends thousands of miles away.
However, it is also the invention of steam engines which has made the consumption of fossil fuel take off. And greenhouse gases began to accumulate in the atmosphere. The electrification again further accelerated the consumption of fossil fuel and accumulation of greenhouse gases.
We of course cannot blame the great inventors for bringing us the climate change problem, which is now threatening the ecosystem of the planet. It is our responsibility. Because to protect the planet while we enjoy the convenience and benefits of their inventions, it is not an easy job. Not a job just for the government. We must all take part as an individual.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are clearly the most promising solutions to climate change. Thanks to the vision of Prime Minister Blair and under the auspices of the British Government, REEEP was launched in October 2003. It has now developed into a highly successful international partnership in sharing experience and promoting development in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
I would like to thank Mr Bradley for inviting Hong Kong to join REEEP. We are most honoured to be part of this international coalition and have the opportunity to learn from others what kinds of policy and technology may help us further reduce our greenhouse gas emission. For example, as Mr Bradley just mentioned, the UK has adopted an ambitious energy efficiency programme that would aim to contribute a 10% cut in greenhouse gas emission. I understand that the UK is also developing the next generation marine energy technologies, which may be very useful to Hong Kong as we are surrounded by the sea.
We share Mr Blair's vision. Even though Hong Kong is only a small emitter of greenhouse gas on the global front, accounting for about 0.2% of the global emission, we are willing to take up our share of responsibility in combating climate change.
We have been making efforts since early 1990s. In 2000, we managed to bring our greenhouse emission back to the level in 1990, down 17% from its historical height, while the population actually grew by 17% (almost one million) in the same period. Our greenhouse gas emission per capita is about 6 tonne per person per year, which is far below all other major developed economies. This is equivalent to about 25% of that of the US.
Looking ahead, as 60% of our greenhouse gas emission comes from power generation, controlling such emission is one of our major tasks. We are exploring many measures - some may yield immediate results while others may take a longer time to plan and require careful consideration.
For those measures that may yield immediate results and require a short lead time, most of them are often about improvements in energy efficiency. I believe there is still a lot of scope in this respect for Hong Kong. We spend over $10 billion in air conditioning each year. As many would agree with me, many places in Hong Kong are freezingly cold in summer, which wastes a lot of energy. To lead by example, we have asked Government offices and publicly subvented organizations to set their air-conditioning temperature at 25.5 degree Celsius as a standing practice. We hope the community will follow suit.
We intend to make the existing voluntary energy efficiency label schemes mandatory, which will allow customers to make informed decisions and select more energy efficient models for household electric appliances and office equipment. We are preparing for a public consultation exercise in the middle of the year.
The benefits of renewable energy may take a longer time to realize. We are however taking all necessary measures to pave the way -
* at the policy level, we, together with the Economic Development and Labour Bureau, will explore the role of renewable energy in the future electricity market so as to give a clear signal to the market. The public consultation will start very soon.
* we will create an environment conducive to the development of small-scale renewable energy systems for private use. With the assistance of the power companies and professional and academic bodies, we are preparing a set of guidelines on the safety specifications for small renewable energy systems to connect to the power grid.
* we are carrying out various studies to understand more about the potential of tapping into renewable energy sources in Hong Kong.
Notwithstanding our efforts, the development of renewable energy in Hong Kong is quite unique, given that it is a metropolis with a population density of 6 500 persons per square kilometre. Extensive use of wind energy will inevitably give rise to a lot of issues such as planning interface problems, environmental implications, cost effectiveness, visual impacts, etc.
With a view to building a greater consensus in the community, we have successfully persuaded the two power companies to set up a production-scale wind turbine each so that the public can gain a first-hand understanding of the benefits and limitations of wind power generation.
The Government would of course take the lead in tapping renewable energy resources. We have installed renewable energy systems in a number of government projects. Their power output amounts to 1.3GWh per year, equivalent to the annual consumption of 300 households. We will however double the efforts by requiring all works departments to adopt energy efficiency devices and renewable energy systems in new projects whenever practicable. I am particularly interested to have renewable energy system installed in new schools.
Being a tiny dot on the world map, Hong Kong probably cannot reverse the rising curve of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration no matter how hard we try. But I fully agree with Mr Bradley that it is the message behind that is important. We want to convey to our citizens and our overseas friends that we should and will discharge our share of responsibility although we have been doing well all along despite our natural limitations.
Ends/Tuesday, January 25, 2005