Renewable Energy in Hong Kong

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department commissioned a two-stage consultancy study in late 2000 to investigate the feasibility of wider application of renewable energy technologies in Hong Kong. Findings from the Stage 1 Study suggest that the renewable energy technologies that are considered potentially feasible for wide-scale application in Hong Kong are solar power, wind power and energy from waste.

Hong Kong has been using solar energy for over 20 years, albeit in a very small scale and mainly for water heating application. The first solar hot water heating installation was installed in 1980 for a bathhouse in Stanley. There are also a number of solar water heating installations for low-rise houses in some suburban areas and a few for swimming pools. The largest system installed so far in the territory is at the Sheung Shui Slaughter House where the system is used to pre-heat the incoming water in the slaughtering process.

Apart from using solar energy for heating purpose, solar energy was also harnessed locally by photovoltaic systems to generate electrical energy. Since the 1980s solar cells have been employed to power small automatic weather monitoring points in various locations in Hong Kong. In addition to using photovoltaic systems in small and stand-alone applications, a number of Building Integrated Photovoltaic systems in both government and private projects have emerged recently and showcased the successful integration of the photovoltaic system with the electrical systems of the buildings. These projects include Wanchai Tower, EMSD Headquarters at Kai Tak, Science Park and the “Green School” at Ma Wan, etc.

So far Hong Kong only has a few small wind turbines installed. The Hong Kong Observatory has successfully made use of small wind turbines coupled with photovoltaic panels to form hybrid arrays to supply electricity to some of their weather monitoring stations in remote sites.

The utilisation of landfill gas (mainly methane) as an energy source has not been extensive in Hong Kong. At present, most landfill sites use landfill gas as a heating fuel in the landfill’s leachate treatment plant and also as a primary fuel to power generation plants to produce electricity for on-site consumption. One of the landfill sites succeeds in utilizing landfill gas to feed a nearby town gas production plant as process fuel to crack naphtha in the production of town gas.

Social and Economic Concerns

Large-scale renewable energy schemes, however, could cause concerns about the consequence on the surroundings. Large open spaces are generally required for the exploitation of energy either from the sun or wind. Land is scarce in Hong Kong and most available potential renewable energy sites are either located in areas targeted for various urban developments, or in our country park areas where natural and wildlife conservation measures are in place. In addition, the visual and noise impacts of renewable energy installations, although subjective to some extend, can be a major concern to the public.

Furthermore, the development cost of renewable energy at present is still high. Based on the “user-pay” principle, consumers using renewable energy will be required to pay a higher energy price.