Hong Kong's Path to Carbon Neutrality: An interview with Mr Eric Pang, Director, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (ESMD), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government

In this interview, Mr Eric Pang puts forward a clear pathway for Hong Kong to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050.

  1. What is EMSD’s role in the implementation of Hong Kong’s updated Climate Action Plan?

    The Climate Action Plan 2030+

    In 2017, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government launched the Climate Action Plan 2030+. Under the Climate Action Plan, we have set an ambitious carbon intensity reduction target of 65-70% by 2030, using 2005 as the base.

    In the last few years, we have strived to review past efforts and endeavoured towards a new carbon emissions reduction target for 2030 as well as action plans to meet the target.

    Our plan is to continue to phase down coal in local electricity generation and encourage the implementation of renewable energy. We are also making our buildings and infrastructure more energy efficient, improving public transport and promoting walking as a mobility means. Efforts are being made to strengthen the climate-readiness of the city as a whole, "cool" the city through landscaping, and partner with stakeholders so that our community can be climate-resilient now and in the long term.

    Combating climate change is an important issue across the globe. In this context, our Chief Executive announced in his 2020 Policy Address that the HKSAR will strive to achieve carbon neutrality before 2050. He also said the Government will update Hong Kong’s Climate Action Plan by end of this year to set out more proactive strategies and measures to reduce carbon emissions.

    Significance of Natural Gas in Fuel Mix for Electricity Generation

    About 70% of our carbon emissions come from electricity generation. Coal is the most carbon-intensive fuel in our fuel mix. The power companies have been phasing down coal-fired electricity generation with increased consumption of natural gas and non-fossil fuel sources to meet our carbon intensity reduction target.

    As natural gas will be the transition fuel for electricity generation in the medium term before zero-carbon technologies are fully developed, an offshore Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal is being constructed in the southern waters of Hong Kong. This is to enhance the supply reliability and diversity of natural gas. This new LNG terminal will serve as a fourth natural gas source to Hong Kong upon commissioning scheduled in 2022.

    For EMSD, our regulatory ambits under the Gas Safety Ordinance (Cap 51.) cover approval of the construction and use of notifiable gas installations on the jetty, the subsea pipelines and gas receiving stations. EMSD is also responsible for reviewing and advising on the Quantitative Risk Assessment for the construction and operation of the above.

    Energy and Carbon Efficiency

    Energy savings is the most critical load-side control measure for Hong Kong to continuously reduce carbon emissions. EMSD has been implementing various energy-saving measures which have laid out the foundation from which we will stretch our efforts in carbon emissions reduction.

    Mandatory Energy Efficiency Labelling Scheme (MEELS)

    Since the enactment of the Energy Efficiency (Labelling of Products) Ordinance (Cap. 598) in May 2008, MEELS has been implemented in phases. Under the Ordinance, energy labels are required to be shown on all prescribed products for supply in Hong Kong, to inform consumers of their energy efficiency performance.

    MEELS is now in its third phase regulating a total of eight types of household electrical appliances. These comprise room air-conditioners, refrigerating appliances, compact fluorescent lamps, washing machines (with rated washing capacity not exceeding 10 kg), dehumidifiers, televisions, storage-type electric water heaters, and induction cookers. The grading standards of these products have been tightened twice since the implementation of MEELS to keep pace with technological advancements.

    To achieve further potential energy savings, EMSD proposes taking forward Phase IV of MEELS. This will expand the coverage of appliances to include gas cookers, gas instantaneous water heaters and light emitting diode lamps. Together with the current eight prescribed electrical products under the first three phases, the MEELS prescribed products will cover 80% of total energy consumption in the residential sector. MEELS Phase IV is expected to commence in Q1/Q2 2023, subject to legislative amendment.

    Building Energy Efficiency Ordinance (BEEO) and Retro-commissioning (RCx)

    The major source of carbon emissions in cities is the building sector. Hong Kong’s buildings account for about 90% of the city’s electricity usage. Over 60% of our carbon emissions are attributable to electricity generated for our buildings. Thus, achieving energy savings in the building sector is our primary target for the short and long term.

    Every three years, we review the Building Energy Code and the Energy Audit Code pertaining to the BEEO. The latest round of revisions began in 2020 and will be published by 2021, referencing the latest development on the related technology and relevant international energy efficiency standards. The code continues to evolve, with the prevailing 2018 edition calling for designs and facilities being 18% more energy efficient than that required under the 1st edition in 2012.

    To facilitate the industry and property owners in energy savings and conservation, EMSD is actively pursuing RCx. This energy-saving method further enhances the energy efficiency of existing buildings through regular reviews of operational practices to match with the changing usage of a building.

    District Cooling System (DCS)

    DCS is a major infrastructure supporting low-carbon development in Hong Kong. It is a large-scale centralised air-conditioning system that produces chilled water by central chiller plants for distribution to buildings for air-conditioning purposes. In general, the energy efficiency of DCS is better than that of traditional central air-conditioning systems in individual buildings.

    As set out in the 2018 Policy Address, the Government will continue to study the provision of DCSs in new development areas (NDAs) and redevelopment areas to promote low-carbon development. EMSD is responsible for providing technical expertise and implementing DCS in NDAs, including first and additional DCS in Kai Tak Development, Kwu Tung North NDA and Tung Chung New Town Extension (East). In addition, we are undertaking the preliminary planning and feasibility studies for DCS projects in other NDAs under planning, such as Hung Shui Kiu NDA.

    The mentioned DCS projects have an estimated total cooling capacity of about 1,270 megawatts of refrigeration. Upon completion and full utilisation of the DCSs in these NDAs, it is estimated that the annual savings in electricity consumption would be about 360 million kilowatt-hours, equivalent to an annual carbon emissions reduction of about 250 000 tonnes.

  2. How is EMSD working with the industry and public stakeholders to advance the deployment of new technologies?

    Electrical and Mechanical (E&M) InnoPortal and I&T Facilitator

    Through flexible and innovative thinking, EMSD is committed to creating a safe, reliable and energy-efficient E&M living environment for the people of Hong Kong. In supporting the policy direction related to the development of Innovation and Technology (I&T) in Hong Kong, the E&M InnoPortal was launched. This aims to facilitate the strengthening of collaboration between government departments and public bodies with the I&T sector. The objective is to encourage the application of innovative technology to improve services and support smart city development.

    EMSD works closely with various government departments, the E&M trade, start-ups and academic institutions to drive and promote I&T development through a three-pronged strategy:

    • Provide full support to E&M start-ups and encourage more R&D and innovation;
    • Strengthen the use of I&T to enhance service safety and quality; and
    • Take the lead to promote the use of innovation to meet new challenges in the E&M trade.


    To support the Government's pro-innovation procurement policy introduced in April 2019, EMSD has taken up the role of internal Innovation Facilitator. The E&M InnoPortal enables effective matching of the technological needs of government departments, public bodies and the E&M trade with the scientific research achievements of start-ups, SMEs and academia. This facilitates the application of I&T solutions to overcome challenges for all parties.

    EMSD facilitates the testing of successfully matched projects by arranging trials to be conducted at government facilities. Validated performance reports are also posted on the platform for public sharing. Furthermore, the E&M InnoZone and E&M InnoFoyer in EMSD Headquarters showcase the I&T projects interactively. These are the outcomes of EMSD’s I&T collaboration with academic institutions and research institutions in Hong Kong and promote the latest technologies that drive smart city development.

    We are glad our efforts with industry partners have been recognised internationally and locally. Overseas, we were awarded four Gold Medals and four Silver Medals at the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva 2021. At home, we received the Gold and Silver awards in the Government’s Robotic Challenge.

    Retro-commissioning (RCx)

    To enhance the capacity of RCx practitioners, EMSD supports various professional initiatives to develop a series of training packages. These assist the building management decision-makers, professional engineers and technical staff to understand the benefits of RCx, as well as their roles and duties in conducting RCx.

    In 2018, EMSD signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with six institutes/ universities in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) and other Mainland cities. Through collaboration among these partners, it is expected that various organisations in the GBA and other Mainland cities will further work together to adopt RCx as a new solution to achieve building energy efficiency through the sharing of knowledge, experience and training.

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) Challenge

    To promote international I&T ideas through exchange and cooperation, EMSD is organising "the Global AI Challenge for Building E&M Facilities". This is a global event on AI development and its applications in the building services industry.

    The Global AI Challenge is the first and largest AI event related to building E&M services globally, which includes an international conference and an AI competition. Researchers, students, start-up companies and any other interested parties or individuals from around the world are all welcome. The objectives of the event are to:

    • Encourage AI technology applications in the building E&M industry
    • Inspire young innovators’ enthusiasm for AI
    • Encourage innovative AI solutions and realise data sharing


    Supporting Research and Development (R&D) of New Technologies

    The HKSAR Government supports the R&D and application of new technologies such as green hydrogen. For instance, the Innovation and Technology Commission nominated Dr Ng Yun Hau of the City University of Hong Kong to participate in the 2019 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE). He was awarded for his R&D work in using sunlight to split water into clean hydrogen and generate renewable energy.

    The Government will continue to facilitate the development and trial of new technologies to build up the market and encourage wider adoption of these technologies.

  3. What are some ways EMSD is working with fellow regulators on to strengthen international cooperation?

    Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between EMSD and the Energy Market Authority (EMA)

    EMSD and Singapore's EMA signed an MoU in October 2020 to strengthen co-operation between Hong Kong and Singapore in energy-related matters. Under the MoU, both sides will work together to promote co-operation and share best practices in three key areas, namely:

    • Electricity and gas systems and markets, including planning and operations;
    • Renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, district cooling and low carbon technologies such as hydrogen, carbon capture, utilisation and storage; and
    • Co-operation at multilateral forums such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).


    The MoU brings closer co-operation between both sides by deepening the partnership on sharing knowledge and experiences in energy-related areas. Through strengthening bilateral ties, EMSD and EMA are working together towards the vision of a green and sustainable future.

    Participating in APEC Energy Work Group (EWG)

    APEC EWG is an excellent platform for its 21 member economies to deepen cooperation and improve energy-related policy making and decisions. In recent years, EMSD has been actively taking part in APEC EWG programmes. We chaired the Expert Group on Energy Efficiency and Conservation, carried out several APEC projects, and co-hosted the APEC EWG and Expert Group Meetings with the Environment Bureau in Hong Kong.

    We are actively establishing closer and multilateral ties with APEC. Through this, we hope to further expand our network to strengthen the exchange of energy information and experiences. This will give us the impetus to promote energy conservation, emissions reduction and renewable energy development to mitigate the impact of climate change.

  4. With the recently announced roadmap to end sales of fuel-propelled private vehicles by 2035, what are the opportunities and challenges to achieving the targets?

    the HKSAR Government announced the "Roadmap on Popularisation of Electric Vehicles (EVs)" in March 2021. The Roadmap sets a target to attain zero vehicular emissions before 2050, in line with our efforts to strive for carbon neutrality in the same time frame.

    To achieve the target, Hong Kong will stop new registration of fuel-propelled private cars, including plug-in hybrids and hybrids, in 2035 or earlier. This timeline will bring opportunities to overcome the two major challenges we are facing in the popularisation of EVs – the availability of affordable models and the charging infrastructure.

    On the availability of models, we expect more models of different price levels and performance to enter the Hong Kong market in the next few years. In fact, conventional car manufacturers have themselves formulated plans to shift their focus to EVs. Some have already set timelines to produce only EVs in the foreseeable future.

    Regarding charging infrastructure, we are actively implementing a series of measures to enhance both public and private charging facilities to cater to rising needs. For example, we are installing additional chargers in public car parks. Our HK$2 billion "EV-Charging at Home Subsidy Scheme" is also subsidising private residential buildings to install charging infrastructure, so that EV owners can charge their cars at home. The 2035 timeline will further prompt stakeholders to prepare for a better transition to EVs and plan for charging facilities accordingly.

  5. What do you look forward to discussing at SIEW 2021?

    The theme of SIEW 2021 is "Advancing the Energy Transition" to address key issues in the energy industry. This will focus on resetting efforts to advance the low-carbon energy transition; restructuring the economy for greener growth; and reinventing innovation and the future of energy.

    Combating climate change is an important issue across the globe. Just as this summer’s Olympic Games provided a platform for athletes to come together to realise their dreams and ambitions and strive for faster, higher and stronger – SIEW 2021 will do likewise. It will provide a platform for policymakers and energy experts to work together towards a shared goal on carbon neutrality.

    Energy transition presents a critical pathway to carbon neutrality. But this path cannot be walked alone. We need to work together and gather our collective efforts in overcoming the gap between ambition and the reality of carbon neutrality. I am confident SIEW 2021 will provide such a chance for all of us.

About Ir Eric Pang, Director, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (ESMD), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government

Mr Eric PANG is the Director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and the General Manager of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Trading Fund (EMSTF), both of which are under the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of the People’s Republic of China. He leads over 5,000 staff in EMSD. As the Director, he is responsible for enforcing legislations in ensuring public safety on using electricity, gas, railway and other electrical and mechanical installations, and promoting energy efficiency and conservation as well as the application of renewable energy in Hong Kong. As the General Manager of the EMSTF, he administers the provision of one-stop, comprehensive, professional and quality E&M engineering services to government bureaux and departments, as well as public bodies such as the Hospital Authority and Airport Authority. The turnover of EMSTF reaches about $8 billion in 2019/20.

Mr PANG is an engineer by profession. He has over 30 years’ experience in engineering management and public administration. He is a fellow member of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) and has served as the Chairman of the HKIE Gas and Energy Division.


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