Is there a demand for a public service commission in Hong Kong?

  • WOO, Chi-Keung (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    Albeit the global trend of corporate social responsibility, most Hong Kong corporations continue to do business as usual, not making substantive efforts to explore whether and how they might enhance social well-being and win the trust of the average citizen. A case in point is the 08 May 2012 announcement by China Light and Power that its rates will rise 40% by the end of 2015 due to an estimated 250% hike in fuel costs. In response, several Legislative Council (Legco) members have recommended restructuring Hong Kong’s electricity sector. Adopting this recommendation is risky, chiefly because of the lack of evidence that electricity market competition would result in reliable service at just and reasonable rates. Moreover, restructuring is costly, time-consuming, and irreversible, as evidenced by experience worldwide.

    A reversible, low-risk, low-cost alternative is regulatory reform to establish a public service commission (PSC) that would hold public hearings to allow various stakeholders (e.g. ratepayers and environmentalists) to examine the evidence presented by utilities in their rate increase applications. Commonly used in North America, public hearings would generate the information that would enable the PSC to make its decisions based on findings of fact and conclusions of law. Furthermore, the PSC can investigate policy proposals that would greatly affect consumers (e.g., renewable-energy procurement, vehicular electrification, large-scale energy efficiency improvement, a smart grid to improve asset utilisation and system operations, and alternative ratemaking mechanisms).

    Our proposed research focuses on estimating the demand by residential users for a PSC in Hong Kong for the following reasons. First, low-income families are most affected by electricity rate increases. Second, residential users are relatively homogenous, thus simplifying our survey development and data collection. Finally, absent residential support for a PSC, the idea is dead on arrival at the Legco.

    The proposed research enriches the research in public administration and law by determining if there is a strong demand for regulation based on electricity users’ willingness-to-pay (WTP) for a PSC’s service. It innovatively uses the contingent valuation survey method to elicit WTP for the unpriced service of an independent regulator. It determines how the support for the PSC may vary by its funding source (private vs. public funding). If a low support for the PSC is largely due to the poor residents’ inability to pay, it should be publicly funded to reflect that its service would benefit all Hong Kong residents.
    Effective start/end date1/09/1328/02/15

    UN Sustainable Development Goals

    In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This project contributes towards the following SDG(s):

    • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities


    Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.