One of Hong Kong's main power suppliers said on Monday it won't be going ahead with an increase in prices next month, while the other says it expects bills to start coming down from the middle of the year.
Executives from CLP Power and Hongkong Electric made the comments as they came under pressure at a Legco panel meeting over fuel charges, an element of power bills which is linked to the price of oil, gas and coal. Fuel prices have surged, especially since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine ignited, but have begun to ease since the end of last year.
CLP Power's managing director, Chiang Tung-keung, said an increase in the charge, from 62.8 cents per unit to 63.5 cents, will not go ahead next month, with charges staying at the lower level from April to June.
HK Electric said that it expected the charge to begin to fall in the middle of the year. Its fuel charge is due to increase from 86.4 cents to 90.6 cents per unit next month.
However members of the panel, including the DAB’s Edward Leung and Lau Kwok-fan, questioned why the two providers had been allowed to pass on all increases in fuel costs to consumers.
Environment Secretary Tse Chin-wan agreed that the companies should be expected to share the costs with consumers when there is an energy crisis.
"We will talk to the power companies, to try to bring in new mechanisms. The effect is that if there are surges in international fuel costs, the power companies can dip into their profits and do something about this," he said.
"But this is a contentious issue, we need the consent of the two power companies, and then we can make changes."
Both HK Electric and CLP Power said they were happy to discuss the matter with authorities.
The fuel charge is one of two elements that make up electricity bills in Hong Kong, along with a basic tariff set annually that covers the companies' operating expenses, permitted profits and the standard cost of fuel.
The fuel charges are intended to reflect any difference in the actual cost of fuel and the standard price reflected in the basic tariff. It's adjusted every month but is based on the average cost of fuel in the previous three months.
The two companies said this created a time lag in setting the charges.
Meanwhile Tse said the administration would look into importing clean energy from the mainland, saying this can stabilise energy costs.