Urban solar has become a global trend as solar photovoltaic (PV) costs continue to decline and policy-makers seek effective post-Fukushima climate/ energy strategies. Community-based solar initiatives have emerged in many major cities including Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, London, and New York. The imminent introduction of a renewable energy feed-in tariff (REFIT) policy in October 2018 presents opportunities to realise the underexploited solar PV potential in Hong Kong. This, however, raises various questions: Are solar communities a viable energy option for Hong Kong? Can Hong Kong pursue sustainable energy futures that partly depend on solar communities? What can Hong Kong learn from the experience of leading PV cities elsewhere? How can Hong Kong manage the technical, economic, and socio-political and institutional challenges to solar development, including the new opportunities offered by the REFIT policy?
This is a one year, interdisciplinary, scenario-based research project, involving a comparative study of two prospective solar communities in Yuen Long and Tai Po. The potential of solar communities as an energy transition pathway will be analysed by tracking and explaining the ex ante and ex post responses of prospective solar households and solar-powered schools in response to the introduction of the REFIT policy. A policy model will be developed to examine, and explain how and to what extent community inputs in solar development can contribute to energy transitions (from envisioning, community leadership, experimentation, networking, social learning, to scaling up niche innovations) and to each stage of policy-making for the new REFIT policy (from agenda setting to policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and to evaluation).
The study will be based on data collected from a sample of approximately 100 households and four schools from the two case communities as well as other relevant stakeholders. Face-to-face interviews, deliberative and engagement events (involving interactive online solar maps, scenario narratives, deliberative workshops (small groups and plenary group discussions), and a Hong Kong wide public opinion survey will be utilised to generate an extensive original database. A multi-disciplinary research team will be assembled to integrate expertise in the fields of energy policy and governance, solar resource assessment, geographical information systems, and deliberative participation.
Project outputs will include a guiding model for engaging communities in solar development, a guide book of solarized communities, two working papers, and two papers in top-tiered journals. The project will also contribute to enhancing energy literacy in Hong Kong and promoting rational debates about local energy options and transitions.