Rural bosses seek solar incentives for villages

Hong Kong rural leaders are calling for incentives to encourage villagers to install solar equipment on their rooftops.

Junius Ho, a Legco member and Tuen Mun village chief, has called on the government to provide tax concessions and an easing on village housing restrictions.

The Heung Yee Kuk, the peak body of rural committees, has also begun a campaign for solar energy concessions, scmp.com reports.

Ho, whose New Territories West constituency covers Lantau, told scmp.com that rooftops of small houses were “ideal” for solar panels.

He says the the government should offer incentives to villagers, “like land rent or property rates waivers” as well as exemption from rooftop building regulations that might be regarded as illegal structures.

For example, it is currently illegal to place anything on the roof of the stair-housing, which is a natural site for a solar system.

Ho and the kuk are arguing that the expanded use of solar power can help the city reach its carbon emission target.

At present, Hong Kong gets 48% of its energy from coal, 27% from natural gas and the remaining 25 per cent from a combination of nuclear and renewables. The aim is to cut carbon emissions from 6.2 tonnes per capita in 2014 to below 4.5 tonnes by 2020 and eventually to as low as 3.3 tonnes, according to scmp.com.

Hong Kong lags behind its neighbours in its use of solar energy, which is widely deployed across China, Singapore, South Korea and Australia.

But one expert warns of a political backlash if the government gives preferential treatment just to indigenous villagers.

“It could be politically sensitive,” said Daphne Mah, director of the Asian Energy Studies Centre at Baptist University.

“Some non-indigenous villagers may think it is a double benefit because the indigenous villagers have already been allowed free land to build a house of their own.”

WWF HK last year ran a pilot project in Tai O (above) to show that 25 sq metres of solar panels could supply half of the power required by a four-member household. The system cost HK$87,500.

The group believes solar energy can meet more than 10% of the city’s energy needs.

Islands District vice-chairman Randy Yu backed the trial and also called for government support.

“Incentives like capital subsidies and providing technical support for rooftop solar installations can drive installation capacity in small-scale housing estates in the Islands district and in rural areas.

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