CLP, Hong Kong’s largest power utility and the first major local company to invest in Zhaoqing more than two decades ago, will continue to supply electricity in the Greater Bay Area city to support its future development, according to senior executives.
The Huaiji Hydro Power Station in Zhaoqing, the largest bay area city geographically, was the first renewable energy project for CLP. It was established in 1997, the same year Hong Kong was handed back to China.
CLP has increased its investment in Zhaoqing over the last two decades and has already invested 480 million yuan (US$70.18 million) in the power plant there. The Hong Kong electricity company has raised its shareholding in the Huaiji power plant from 41.5 per cent in 1997 to 84.9 per cent now.
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“The project provides a stable power supply needed for the social and economic development of Huaiji County in Zhaoqing. It also establishes a stable foundation for CLP to develop renewable energy business,” said Chan Siu-hung, CLP’s managing director for China, who joined the firm in 1981 and oversees the company’s business in mainland China.
“CLP will continue to explore opportunities in Zhaoqing and other GBA cities to provide clean and stable electricity in the region. We will focus on renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and hydro and smart energy.”
Smart energy refers to the use of artificial intelligence and other new technology to enable companies to reduce their energy use.
The power plant has generated an average annual profit of around 65 million yuan over the last decade for CLP, while it provides an electricity sufficient for 120,000 households per year.
“Huaiji Hydro Power Station has been a successful green energy project. The area has many waterfalls, which meant we did not need to do much construction – we just had to install the generators to use the water flow to generate electricity,” Chan said.
CLP, which will celebrate its 120th anniversary next year, is 19 per cent owned by chairman Michael Kardoorie and his family. It was his father Lawrence who decided to expand the company’s business into mainland China in 1979, and it now has over 50 projects across the country.
Chan recalled the project was signed into existence during a promotional event hosted by the Zhaoqing government to encourage investment from Hong Kong. Over the past four decades, Hong Kong companies’ investments have been a major driving force behind the development of the GBA.
Zhaoqing will have a greater demand for electricity as it expands under the bay area project. In February last year Beijing issued a blueprint detailing measures to promote capital and talent flow between Hong Kong, Macau, and nine mainland Chinese cities including Zhaoqing to create an economic powerhouse.
Zhaoqing, because of its size, can provide cheap land for start-ups to expand, and a stable electricity supply will be vital. Chinese Tesla challenger Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology in May secured a production licence for a 10 billion yuan (HK$11.2 billion) factory in the city before its listing in the United States last month.
Mainland developer Agile Property plans to build a residential “Hong Kong town” in Zhaoqing to attract Hongkongers to live and retire there.
“The Zhaoqing government and the local community in Huaiji has always supported the CLP Power plant,” said Dillon He, an associate director at CLP, who was based in Huaiji for three years until the end of 2019.
The power plant provides jobs, with 95 per cent of the 260 staff hired locally, He said.
As a Hongkonger living and working in Zhaoqing, he found life easy there because people speak Cantonese and there are a lot of good restaurants serving dim sum and other Guangdong food.
“The opening of high-speed train services between Hong Kong and Zhaoqing in July last year has made my life easier travelling between the two places. It is now less than two hours to travel between Hong Kong and Zhaoqing, compared with four to five hours by bus previously. It allowed me to come back home every week,” he said.
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