Hong Kong has an ambitious carbon neutral goal to meet by 2050. Achieving this goal requires a departure from a traditional city-scale centralised, fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure to a more decentralised, locally-generated renewable energy (RE) while expanding the regional intercity smart grid system to accommodate RE import in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA). Such energy transitions inevitably bring new social challenges, but how Hong Kong citizens perceive such transitions in the GBA context is not well studied. This study draws on quantitative and qualitative data derived from an online deliberative poll (DP) (N = 174) on smart energy transitions. We have four key findings. Firstly, citizens showed a low level of trust in the national, provincial, and city governments whilst a high level of trust towards the incumbent electricity companies. Secondly, citizens showed distrust to the governments, suspecting that the genuine motives of the governments were to prioritise regional RE import over local RE production. Thirdly, citizens raised concerns over five types of risks (price volatility risks, energy reliability risks, cost overrun risks, data privacy risks, and environmental risks) that contributed to new sources of public distrust in governments’ competence. Fourthly, the public distrust toward multilevel governments was found to be underpinned by demographic factors (age group and family size) and a sociopolitical context of recent social movements against government policies. Our findings suggest that policymakers in the GBA need to give sufficient attention to enhancing public trust, and thereby the policy legitimacy of regional smart energy transitions.
- smart energy transition
- intercity energy collaboration
- public distrust
- public perception of risks
- Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA)