WWF Launches Pioneering “Solarizing Communities” Project in Tai O Rooftop solar provides free electricity and a clean energy alternative WWF urges the government to commit to a feed-in tariff policy to boost renewablesToday, WWF-Hong Kong launched the “Solarizing Communities” project in Tai O, aiming to popularize rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation in Hong Kong. This project not only demonstrates the enormous potential of rooftop solar projects in Hong Kong, it also and provides government bodies, businesses and other stakeholders with real-life insight involved in utilizing distributed renewable energy sources across the city.
The “Solarizing Communities” project first began in June 2016 when WWF gained the support of the Tai O community and local partner organizations to install small-scale solar systems in this west Lantau village. The pilot phase of the project involved installing three on-grid solar PV systems on three stilt houses with rooftops facing south to south-west. The systems’ total capacity is 6 kW, which generates between 6,000 and 7,000 kWh of electricity every year. The electricity generated by these systems provides a clean source of energy which powers household appliances and community lighting systems. Paying close attention to the structural loading limits of the stilt houses, the PV panels were evenly installed across the roofs, with the weight of each system kept under 40 kg. The systems also passed the stress test during the super typhoon hit in Hong Kong in late October 2016.
WWF also installed a series of online monitoring systems and a wi-fi weather station; these record the power output of each system and correlate changes in weather with system performance to ensure stability and record the amount of power generated. Over the monitoring period – November to December 2016 – one 2 kW rooftop solar system generated about 125 kWh of electricity in one month. This is especially notable because solar output in the winter is usually lower – electricity generation capacity is expected to increase considerably in the summer. The average Hong Kong household consumes about 380 kWh of electricity per month. This implies that small-scale rooftop solar systems can supply at least one-third of an average household’s electricity; potentially reducing an annual electricity bill by between $2,100 and $2,500. However, the system payback period is currently quite high: between 30 and 35 years.
WWF is advocating for the government to implement a financial incentive-based policy which shortens the system payback period and provides a reasonable rate of return to system owners. We hope this will eventually increase the prevalence of private distributed generation systems across the city
Olivia To, WWF-Hong Kong’s Public Engagement Officer for Climate, says “The successful trial phase of the Tai O project proves that there is great potential and increasing public demand for implementing rooftop solar in Hong Kong. However, as of now, there are no supportive government policies which provide a reasonable return for people who wish to install their own systems. We urge the government to learn from other jurisdictions like Japan, China and Taiwan and adopt a feed-in tariff (FIT) policy in the post-2018 Scheme of Control Agreement to be signed with Hong Kong’s power utilities. WWF suggests that Hong Kong’s two power companies should rebate all electricity generated by renewable sources under an initial rate of HKD$4 per unit for solar PV, as this will shorten the solar power system payback period to between eight and ten years.”
Maximising the application of solar energy on private rooftops, balconies and open areas is the first step to revamp Hong Kong energy fuel mix in electricity generation. Research findings released by the Central Policy Unit show that more than 233,000 buildings in Hong Kong are suitable for rooftop solar PV system installation. Solar panels covering an area this size could potentially generate more than 4,600 GWh – meeting over 10 per cent of Hong Kong’s electricity consumption. But currently, over 70 per cent of Hong Kong’s electricity is generated by burning carbon-intensive fossil fuels while renewable energy makes up only about 0.1 per cent of our electricity fuel mix. WWF urges the government to set a clear renewable energy target of at least 5% by 2030 and develop FIT and other supportive policies which encourage the general public to install their own distributed renewable energy systems.
“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. In Tai O, 20 villagers have already applied to install solar systems on their rooftops”, added Randy Yu Hon-kwan, Vice Chairman of Islands DC Members and Member of the Lantau Development Advisory Committee.
Late last year, WWF launched Hong Kong’s first-ever Renewable Energy Certificate scheme to encourage businesses to take part in the development of local renewable energy. These certificates, which are purchased by companies, guarantee that 100 per cent of the energy they represent is generated by solar energy in Tai O. The certificates also provide opportunities for companies to support local renewable energy development and claim that part of their electricity consumption comes from solar energy.