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LCQ18: Pilot Green Transport Fund

     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Edward Yau, at the Legislative Council meeting today (November 2):


     The Financial Secretary proposed in the 2010-2011 Budget that a $300 million Pilot Green Transport Fund (the Fund) be set up to encourage the transport sector to introduce green and innovative transport technologies, with a view to improving air quality.  The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) announced last month that the first batch of 13 applications under the Fund had been approved, which covered the trial of 16 electric buses and nine electric goods vehicles with a total subsidy of about $50 million.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have, when putting forward the proposal for the Fund, set different indicators such as the number of applications submitted, the number of applications approved, or air quality data, etc. for monitoring and assessing the operation and effectiveness of the Fund; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and of the improvement measures to be adopted by the authorities when the Fund receives lukewarm response and fails to yield satisfactory results;

(b) given that it has been reported that as at March this year, two applications which involved the trial of electric motorcycles had been rejected on the ground that motorcycles did not satisfy the definition of "public transport", how the decision on the scope of the Fund had been made by the authorities in the first place; whether they intend to examine extending the scope of the Fund (such as covering trial projects which do not meet the definition of "public transport" and those on "electric commercial vehicle"); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) given that it has been reported that six applications submitted by the member companies of one particular bus group were approved for subsidy under the Fund, involving a total of 12 electric buses and a grant of about $30 million, and that some members of the Steering Committee of the Fund who participated in the vetting and approval of the applications pointed out that the Steering Committee might not have carefully scrutinised the background of the applicants and as a result, the subsidies might be granted predominantly to one particular operator, whether the authorities have looked into the vetting and approval process to see if approval was granted in a rash and careless manner, and whether there are mechanisms or guidelines in place to prevent subsidies under the Fund from being granted predominantly to one particular operator; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) given that the Chief Executive has put forth in his policy addresses for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 respectively the proposal to fund the full cost of procuring six hybrid buses for use by the franchised bus companies along busy corridors in Hong Kong on a trial basis, as well as the proposal to earmark $180 million for franchised bus companies to purchase 36 electric buses for trial runs on a number of routes to assess their performance in different conditions, whether the authorities have considered extending the scope of the Fund to cover these proposals; if not, of the reasons for that; and the latest progress of the trial of the six hybrid buses; and

(e) whether the authorities know how the current price of an environment-friendly bus (including hybrid, electric and supercapacitor double/single-decker buses) compares to that of an ordinary diesel bus (including double/single-decker buses which meet the European Union's emission standards); and the existing number of buses (including hybrid, electric and supercapacitor buses) in each franchised bus company's vehicle fleet, broken down by the emission standards which the buses meet?



(a) The purpose of the Pilot Green Transport Fund (the Fund) is to encourage the transport sector to test out green and innovative transport technologies by way of subsidy so as to improve roadside air quality and avert global climate change.  After consulting the Legislative Council, the relevant stakeholders and the Steering Committee of the Fund, we have drawn up details of the subsidy arrangements under the Fund.  We anticipate that the Fund would test out various green transport technologies through subsidising different transport trades in the coming two to three years, thereby promoting wider use of more environment-friendly and less polluting green transport technologies in the trades.

     Since the set up of the Fund on March 30, 2011, we have been actively introducing the Fund to the green and innovative transport product suppliers and the transport trades, and also encouraging them to make use of the subsidy under the Fund so that more green transport products can be used and tested in Hong Kong.  The Fund has now successfully attracted many overseas green and innovative transport product suppliers, particularly electric vehicle suppliers, to promote their products in Hong Kong.  In just half a year after its set up, the Fund has received enthusiastic responses with 30 applications received, which shows that the suppliers and transport trades are eager to make good use of the Fund to promote green transport.  Among the 30 applications received, two-thirds are on electric vehicles while others are on hybrid vehicles and after-treatment emission reduction devices.  The total subsidy for these applications amounts to about $90 million or about 30% of the total allocation for the Fund.  We will continue to actively encourage the transport sector to make use of the subsidy under the Fund to test out green and innovative transport technologies, as well as to encourage innovative transport product suppliers to introduce their products to the local market so as to promote green transport.
(b) To deliver the objective of improving the air quality effectively, the subsidy targets of the Fund are the public transport and goods vehicles, which have greater impact on our roadside air quality, as well as ferries.  As the two applications quoted by the Hon Kam Nai-wai involve electric motorcycles, which are not public transport, they are not eligible for the application.
(c) In the first batch of approved applications, there are six applications from different companies from the same parent group.  According to the Transport Department's advice, these six companies are operating as independent business entities. As such, they meet the eligibility criteria for application under the rules of the Fund.

(d) As franchised buses are the major source of roadside air pollution on busy corridors, the Government proposes to fund the full cost of procuring hybrid buses and electric buses for trial by the franchised bus companies.  Through the trials, we will be able to understand the performance of these buses and collect operational data, henceforth paving the way for promoting the franchised bus companies to use more environment-friendly buses in future.  As for non-franchised bus companies, they are eligible for subsidy under the Pilot Green Transport Fund to test green transport technologies.  This two-pronged strategy can effectively promote both franchised and non-franchised bus companies to adopt green transport technologies in response to the public aspiration for better roadside air quality.

(e) The number of buses owned by the franchised bus companies as at end of August 2011, classified by emission standards, is shown at the Annex.

     Currently, the respective costs of a new double-deck diesel bus and a new single-deck diesel bus are in the region of $3 million and $2 million.  However, the costs quoted above would be affected by market conditions such as foreign exchange rates, the number of buses purchased, etc., and are therefore subject to changes.

     As hybrid buses and electric buses are still new transport products, their prices are higher than those of the conventional diesel buses.  As the franchised bus companies do not have these kinds of buses in their fleets, and the procurement for the relevant trial programmes has yet to be completed or started, we do not have the exact prices of these buses at this moment.  Nevertheless, according to preliminary information provided by bus suppliers and franchised bus companies, the price of a double-deck hybrid bus is about $5.5 million and that of a single-deck electric bus, including relevant charging facilities, is about $5 million.  We do not have the pricing information for single-deck hybrid buses and double-deck electric buses.

Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:45


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