LCQ 5: Green buildings and energy-saving measures

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and an oral reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (July 4):


     Quite a number of members of the public and environmental groups have relayed to me that as a result of the continuously rising average temperature due to abnormal local weather conditions in recent years, coupled with the lack of importance attached to green architecture in Hong Kong, members of the public use air-conditioners for long periods of time.  On the other hand, temperatures are too low in some public places, such as shopping centres and cinemas, as well as modes of transport, resulting in not just discomfort but also an excessive consumption of energy.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) given that greening works, including vertical greening and roof greening, can help lower the room temperature in a building, of the current number of government buildings in which such works have been completed, as well as the electricity consumption reduced; whether the authorities will assume a leading role by giving priority to carrying out such works on a full scale in the government buildings and public housing estates in Hong Kong; whether it will study measures, including the provision of financial assistance or technical support, to assist building owners who intend to carry out such works; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) given that the Council for Sustainable Development has indicated earlier that the Government has launched the Energy Saving Charter and encourages the business community to sign it, and will conduct energy-cum-carbon audits in a number of public facilities in the second half of this year, of the expected reduction in electricity consumption upon the implementation of such measures; how such measures can be implemented on a long-term basis; and

(c) given that I have repeatedly requested in my speeches delivered in this Council that the power companies should set out in the tariff bill the customer's electricity consumption and consequential carbon dioxide emission level, and implement the "Carbon Emission Reduction Bonus Point Scheme", under which reduction in electricity consumption by a member of the public can be converted into bonus points for paying water and electricity bills, etc., whether the Government will consider adopting the proposal as a new measure to promote energy saving; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?  



     Electricity generation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in Hong Kong, accounting for more than two-thirds of the emissions, while buildings account for about 90% of the electricity consumption. Hence, managing well our demand for electricity consumption has been a practical and effective tool to reduce our emissions. Promoting green buildings and enhancing buildings energy efficiency have always been the most practical part of our work priorities.

     In respect of the promotion of green buildings, the Government has been taking the lead.  Under a comprehensive target-based green performance framework promulgated in 2009, all new government buildings with construction floor area of more than 10,000 square metres should aim to attain the second highest grade or above under the BEAM or BEAM Plus green buildings assessment system, i.e. "Gold" rating.  So far, 13 new government buildings have been registered under BEAM Plus, with two of them awarded the highest grade of "Provisional Platinum". Another 14 government buildings have been awarded "Platinum" or "Gold" rating under BEAM of the old standard.  Regarding private sector buildings, since the establishment of the Hong Kong Green Building Council up till mid-June 2012, about 170 private sector projects have applied for BEAM Plus assessment, which is a good indicator.

     Meanwhile, to beautify the environment and attenuate the heat island effect, the Government has been actively promoting greening in recent years, including planting of trees and shrubs across the territory, and implementing planting works at selected locations of different districts through the implementation of Greening Master Plan. Over the past decade, the Government has planted approximately 18.8 million trees and 82.4 million shrubs. Also, in view of the limited space available for planting in urban areas, we have been promoting appropriately roof greening and vertical greening to improve the urban environment.

     Given the concern of the Hon Chan Hak-kan over the use of air-conditioning, I would like to highlight the measures taken by the Government in improving energy efficiency of air-conditioning and promoting energy saving. Air-conditioning now accounts for about 30% of local electricity consumption. Upon commencement of the Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance in September 2012, new buildings and existing buildings undergoing major retrofitting works are required to comply with the Building Energy Code (BEC), which specifies the minimum energy standards required of four major types of building services installations, including air-conditioning installations.  The commencement of the Ordinance will mark an important milestone of enhancing buildings energy efficiency in Hong Kong. The Government published in the Gazette on February 10, 2012 to tighten the relevant standards for the building services installations. For air-conditioning installations, most of the respective energy efficiency standards have been tightened by more than 10% as compared to the previous standards.

     In addition, the Government has been developing the first-of-its-kind District Cooling System (DCS) at the Kai Tak Development (KTD) area. As compared to traditional air-cooled air-conditioning system and individual water-cooled air-conditioning systems, DCS is 35% and 20% more energy-efficient. This project can help achieve electricity saving of up to 85 million kilowatt-hour, with a corresponding reduction of almost 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per annum.

     In respect of public's daily use of air-conditioning, we implemented the Mandatory Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme to encourage members of the public to choose energy efficient appliances including air-conditioners. The Environment Bureau has also been encouraging various sectors to maintain air-conditioned room temperature at 25.5 degree Celsius.  Apart from issuing guidelines to remind Government bureaux and departments, we have also been appealing for the support of the private sector such as the catering industry, business chambers and public transport companies for this initiative. Meanwhile, we have heard that their staff has echoed to the campaign of dressing down at work.

     Our responses to the questions raised by the Hon Chan are as follows:

(a) different works departments have been actively considering the incorporation of roof greening and vertical greening features into works projects. From 2001 onwards, where practicable, roof greening has been incorporated in the design of new buildings.  Since 2006, the ArchSD has further encouraged departments which manage existing government buildings to incorporate roof greening works into their roof refurbishment projects if the building structure, availability of rooftop space and waterproof design, etc. so permit. Depending on the actual circumstances, other works departments will also incorporate roof greening at suitable building projects.  As of January 2012, there are roof greening in more than 200 Government buildings.

     As for the private sector, through the Environment Education and Community Action Projects (Minor Works Projects) of the Environment and Conservation Fund, the Government has been providing subsidies to non-profit making organisations, such as schools and non-government organizations, to provide for roof greening and vertical greening for demonstration and public education purposes. From 2008 to June 2012, the Fund approved about 140 relevant projects, involving subsidies of about $60 million.  

     On providing technical assistance, the Government has already been promoting the relevant roof greening and vertical greening technologies through a series of talks, seminars and exhibitions. We also organized the "Skyrise Greenery Awards 2012", which has been awarded last month, to promote skyrise greening as an integral part of design projects.

(b) In respect of reducing electricity consumption of air-conditioning, apart from the measures mentioned above, the Environment Bureau invited developers and property management companies in June 2012 to sign up to the "Energy Saving Charter". Participating companies have pledged to maintain the average indoor temperature of their some 90 shopping malls between 24-26 degree Celsius during the summer months of June to September 2012.  Generally speaking, air-conditioning is the major factor and accounts for more than 40% of overall electricity consumption at shopping malls.  Raising the indoor temperature by one degree Celsius can help reduce the electricity consumption by the air-conditioning system by around 3%.  The scheme would effectively help reduce electricity consumption at shopping malls.  However, the actual amount of reduction would depend on a number of factors including the original indoor temperature of the malls.  On completion of the scheme, we will consider and map out the way forward having regard to the comments of the participating malls and the general public.

     Energy-cum-carbon audits not only can help building users and managers to understand their electricity consumption and carbon footprints, but also improve our work of energy saving.  The Government has issued guidelines to require bureaux and departments to regularly carry out carbon audits on all new government buildings completed after 2011 with construction floor area of more than 10,000 square metres, and report the findings in their annual environmental performance reports. Also, existing government buildings with construction floor area of more than 10,000 square metres are encouraged to carry out regular carbon audits to review the effectiveness of energy saving efforts.  In order to strengthen our works in enhancing the departments¡¦ understanding of carbon audits, the Environmental Protection Department is now discussing with various departments with a view to carrying out the energy-cum-carbon audits for around 120 public facilities in the coming three years and encouraging them to follow up the results of the audits in a sustainable way.
(c) The Council for Sustainable Development (SDC) published its report on the public engagement on "Combating Climate Change: Energy Saving and Carbon Emission Reduction in Buildings" in March 2012, putting forward a number of energy-saving recommendations, as what the Members have mentioned, including the provision of more information by the power companies to their customers through electricity bills. The Government followed up this suggestion with the two companies, which have agreed to provide in the electricity bills from June 2012 onwards past consumption data for individual domestic customers, the average electricity consumption per person per month of all of their domestic customers, and the carbon dioxide emission per unit of electricity consumed. The information would enable customers to better understand their own electricity consumption vis-ˆj-vis average consumption, and promote their awareness of energy saving and carbon reduction.

     Reducing electricity consumption cuts down electricity bills, and is per se an economic incentive. The proposal of "Carbon Emission Reduction Bonus Point Scheme" entails high administration costs and relevant procedures. While we have reservation over this proposal, we will study in details the recommendations set out in the SDC's report and work jointly with different sectors for building a low-carbon city.  

     To combat climate change, we will build on the work of the last Administration and sustain our efforts in greater degrees.  With the summer heat just around the corner, we are working with various sectors to promote the campaign of "Energy Saving Begins With Us". As part of the publicity and education efforts, this is a tagline, as well as a campaign for action-taking.   Through the joint efforts of the Government and the public, I believe that we will be able to build Hong Kong into a low-carbon city and live out a green living.

Ends/Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Issued at HKT 22:24