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2.4m To Get HK$1,800 Electricity Windfall

Cheung Chi-fai and Agnes Lam – Updated on Feb 28, 2008 – SCMP

More than 2 million residential power users – rich and poor – will be given a one-off HK$1,800 electricity subsidy under the government’s HK$4.3 billion scheme to help the public fight inflation.

The money, which will not be means-tested, will be added directly to 2.4 million household power accounts in instalments, and any unspent amount will be carried forward until the subsidy is spent. It is the first time the government has provided such a direct subsidy.

About 15 per cent of households, which pay less than HK$150 a month, will not have to pay electricity bills for a year.

The subsidy will partially and temporarily offset the 4.5 per cent power tariff rise introduced this year by CLP Power and the 6 per cent rise by Hongkong Electric, though both firms are also set to lower their basic tariffs later – possibly by double digits – under new regulatory regimes.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, urged the public to remain vigilant about conserving energy despite the subsidy. He said a better way to spend the money would have been to subsidise buyers of energy-efficient appliances, which could help cut power bills over the longer term.

Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, said residents of caged homes or cubicles would get nothing, as they did not have separate power meters and the subsidy would go directly to the landlords.

Defending the scheme, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said there was no better way to distribute the subsidy than across the board. Introducing eligibility criteria could mean high administrative costs. He said waiving water bills was no better option since at least 20 per cent of households pay nothing for water because their consumption is low.

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