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Electricity bills in Hong Kong to see 1 per cent cut, but lawmakers want more

Households and businesses across the territory will see their cost of electricity reduced by about 1 per cent next year, driven by lower fuel clause charges as global energy prices continue to slide.

But lawmakers slammed the city’s two power suppliers for playing a “numbers game” believing there was massive room for further reductions given huge guaranteed profits and surpluses in what they’ve set aside to procure fuel.

Environment secretary Wong Kam-sing claimed the initial plan from the duo was to freeze rates but that he had pressed for them to be lowered. This is the first rate cut for both companies since 2009.

CLP Power, which supplies two million accounts across Kowloon, New Territories and Lantau, told the Legislative Council economic development panel yesterday that average net tariff rates would be reduced from 114.2 cents per kilowatt hour to 113.2 cents beginning January.

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“Because of a significant drop in fuel prices, the impact of the fuel cost increase has been contained, enabling us to reduce our tariff for 2016.” said CLP boss Paul Poon Wai-yin. The rate could be kept in 2017 if energy prices remained as low, he said.

HK Electric, which serves 570,000 users on Hong Kong and Lamma islands, will reduce average net tariffs from 134.9 cents per kilowatt hour to 133.4 cents. Managing director Wan Chi-tin said the utility had gone a further step to reduce tariffs despite pledging to freeze them for five years in 2013.

For a Kowloon resident who consumes between 400 and 800 units of electricity a month, the reductions would lower their bills by up to HK$4.4. For most residents on the island side who use 500 units a month, monthly bills could be lowered by about HK$7.5. High energy-consuming businesses will enjoy bigger rate reductions due to regressive charging rates.

Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki said once fuel prices went up, the companies would immediately increase the net rates. “Basic tariff rates went up for both HK Electric and CLP. Don’t play number games.”

Industrial sector lawmaker Lam Tai-fai said he was “dissapointed” that secretary could only negotiate such an “unreasonably” small reduction given the huge slide in global oil and coal prices. “Oil is at a seven year low, coal is at a nine year low. You certainly paid a lot less for fuel this year,” Lam said.

Labour’s Lee Cheuk-yan said: “It’s obvious there can be further downward adjustment because the fuel cost account has risen so sharply.” Both companies still have surpluses of some HK$2 billion each in their fuel clause accounts.

World Green Organisation chief executive Dr William Yu Yuen-ping believed the rates cuts were made to manufacture a “friendly atmosphere” ahead of the two company’s upcoming negotiations over the scheme of control regulatory framework, which expires in 2018. The scheme currently guarantees it return of 9.99 per cent on its fixed assets.

Wong said his bureau had consulted their experts and felt the tariff proposals were acceptable.

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