Hong Kong may be a latecomer to the world of non-fossil-fuel energy, but it’s never too late to do the right thing.

The government’s announcement of a plan to encourage solar energy generation by the population, with new feed-in tariffs to be introduced along with updated schemes of control for the two power giants, is consistent with an international trend toward greater use of green energy.

The proposed feed-in tariffs of HK$3 to HK$5 per kilowatt hour are attractive.

Given that they are two to four times the net tariffs charged by CLP Power and Hongkong Electric, participants will be able to profit from feeding excess power back into the grids. With suitable promotion by the authorities, the program will likely become popular over time – especially among those living in rural villages.

The potential savings are impressive. For example, a household occupying a typical village house can install a standard rooftop solar panel at a cost of between HK$50,000 and HK$55,000. The abundance of sunlight means the system can generate about 1,500 kilowatt hours a year, or about one third the average consumption by a household.

In the ideal case that all the electricity thus produced is sold to the power company, the household would get HK$7,800 a year – more than enough to cover the annual bill. For a family, it can be an attractive investment.

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Even if the household is asked to pay for the electricity net of own generation, there will still be some savings.

Understandably, that the power giants agreed to such attractive feed-in tariffs has to be the result of negotiations in relation to their schemes of control.

To clear doubts, the Environmental Bureau shouldn’t be too shy to explain the gives and takes reached.

Hong Kong indeed has great potential to turn solar power into usable energy locally due to its abundance of sunshine. Apart from the rooftops of village houses across the rural areas, the apartment towers standing in very high density areas offer the potential to be tapped, as their rooftops and vertical surfaces can be utilized creatively.

Photovoltaic technology is so well developed that semi-transparent photovoltaic cells be sandwiched between glass readily to form the external walls of modern commercial buildings. This can lower interior temperatures and hence reduce energy consumption, while generating electricity to power common facilities such as air-conditioning and lighting.

As long as there’s a suitable policy framework, the market will adjust to it naturally.

However, it will be necessary for the government to look at regulations that may be counterproductive to the initiative. For instance, take the buildings ordinance – will solar panels be encouraged by one authority and considered illegal by another?

Furthermore, some residential estates have management policies to restrict installation of such facilities on top of homes. Are the authorities prepared to sponsor promotion within such estates?

Public reaction to the proposal has been favorable. To paraphrase that old idiom, it’s essential that no devil is left in the policy details.

Read the original article at The Standard.