LCQ19: Electricity charge of sub-divisions of flat units

     Following is a question by the Hon Luk Chung-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (December 7):

     The results of a survey released in June this year showed that quite a number of responding tenants were residing in sub-divisions of flat units (commonly known as "sub-divided units"), and the landlords of half of the responding tenants overcharged them for use of electricity, of amounts 60 per cent to 80 per cent higher than the electricity charges billed by the power companies. Quite a number of concern groups have requested the Government to eradicate the landlords' practice of overcharging tenants of sub-divided units for use of electricity so as to alleviate the tenants' financial burden.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the surveys on "Housing conditions of sub-divided units in Hong Kong" conducted regularly by the Census and Statistics Department collect data on tenants of sub-divided units being overcharged for use of electricity, including the number of tenants concerned and the average monthly amount each tenant was overcharged; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that, and whether the Census and Statistics Department will include such statistical items when the next round of the relevant survey is conducted;

(2) whether it has considered amending the Electricity Ordinance (Cap. 406) to stipulate that electricity users must not resell electricity to a third party for profits and to set relevant penalties, in order to eradicate the practice of landlords overcharging tenants of sub-divided units for use of electricity; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(3) of the number of tenants of sub-divided units assisted by the two power companies since January 2015 in installing separate electricity meters; and

(4) whether it will launch short-term measures (e.g. providing subsidies on electricity charges to tenants of sub-divided units) next year to alleviate their financial pressure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     With information from relevant policy bureaux and the two power companies, my consolidated reply is as follows:

(1) As set out in the Long Term Housing Strategy, the Government will update the long-term housing supply projection annually and present a rolling ten-year housing supply target. For this purpose, the Transport and Housing Bureau previously commissioned the Census and Statistics Department to conduct Thematic Household Surveys on sub-divided units (SDUs). The main objective of the surveys was to estimate the total number of SDUs in private domestic/composite buildings aged 25 years and above in Hong Kong, as well as the number of households and individuals living in these SDUs. The surveys did not cover information on electricity expenses of the relevant households.

(2) The Electricity Ordinance (the Ordinance) (Cap. 406) aims to ensure the safety of electrical installation and products as well as the safety and reliability of electricity supply. The Ordinance provides for the registration of electrical workers and contractors, and stipulates the safety requirements for electricity supply, electrical wiring and products. It also provides powers for electricity suppliers and the Government in respect of electrical accidents and enforcement of the Ordinance. The collection of electricity charges involves arrangements between the two power companies and their customers and is not within the regulatory scope of the Ordinance.

     Under the Supply Rules signed between the two power companies and their customers, customers shall not supply or share with any third party electricity obtained from the power companies without the prior written consent of the power companies. The two power companies will follow up and investigate suspected cases of resale of electricity. If there is concrete evidence that a customer is involved in reselling electricity to a third party, the power company concerned will require the customer to stop breaching the Supply Rules and take appropriate action in accordance with the Supply Rules, including possible disconnection of power supply to the customer.

(3) Any users can apply for electricity supply from the two power companies, namely the CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP) and The Hongkong Electric Company Limited (HKE). The power companies will install individual meters for households living in SDUs if consent from landlords and building management has been obtained, and that the relevant prerequisites and safety standards, including an individual door for each SDU with separate electrical installation that meets the safety standards stipulated in the Ordinance and the requirements of the Supply Rules, are met. Since 2014, the CLP has been working with social welfare organisations, green groups and electrical workers associations on the free installation of individual meters for households living in SDUs that have been given landlords' consent and are equipped with electrical installation that meets the relevant standards. The HKE has also explored ways to install individual meters for households living in SDUs. According to information provided by the two power companies, the CLP has installed nine individual meters for tenants in SDUs while the HKE has not received any request from households living in SDUs.

(4) The Government understands the financial pressure faced by grassroots families in their daily life. It has various policy measures to support people in need including the Low-income Working Family Allowance and the Work Incentive Transport Subsidy. These measures help alleviate the financial burden on grassroots working households. Besides, the CLP organised the Power Your Love Programme in 2015 and 2016, under which the electricity saved by participating customers was donated to families in need, including households living in SDUs, to reduce their electricity expenses.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:35