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51,000 lifts in Hong Kong not fitted with voltage dip devices, officials reveal

51,000 lifts in Hong Kong not fitted with voltage dip devices, officials reveal
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51,000 lifts in Hong Kong not fitted with voltage dip devices that cut risk of becoming trapped, officials reveal

Nearly 70 per cent of lifts in Hong Kong are not equipped with devices that allow them to automatically start operating after voltage dips, authorities have said, adding that installing just one in an old building costs more than HK$500,000 (US$64,029).

Chan Pak-cheung, deputy director of the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department, said on Monday that Hong Kong had 73,000 lifts but only 22,000 were fitted with voltage dip mitigation devices allowing them to resume operations after self-inspection.

Lifts installed after 2009 must be equipped with such devices.

“Most lifts affected by voltage issues are primarily older models operated by electronic control panels,” Chan said.

“The cost of installing such devices in older lifts can potentially be over HK$500,000 for a single one.”

Chan revealed the situation at a Legislative Council panel meeting, at which CLP Power senior management detailed the outcome of an investigation into five electricity supply disruptions in the first four months of this year, including three voltage dip incidents that left more than 200 residents trapped in lifts.

CLP Power experienced five electricity supply disruptions in the first four months of this year. Photo: SCMP

The meeting also discussed whether a penalty mechanism should be added to the regulatory regime of CLP Power, which supplies Kowloon, the New Territories and most outlying islands, when voltage dips occurred.

Last month, a lightning-induced high-voltage equipment failure at Black Point Power Station in Tuen Mun caused two consecutive voltage dips, leaving 152 people stranded in lifts and triggering 16 fire alarms.

A week earlier, a hill fire in Yuen Long affected overhead cables resulting in 52 lift entrapments. In January, cable faults caused voltage dips and energy disruptions in Tsing Yi on two occasions.

Panel chairman Edward Lau Kwok-fan and legislator Benson Luk Hon-man expressed concerns over whether authorities would help to speed up installations and whether the power giant would help financially to prevent lift entrapments during voltage dips.

CLP Power managing director Joseph Law Ka-chun said the firm had been providing free consultations to more than 100 housing estates and customers about mitigation devices, with more than half having adopted its suggestions in the past three years.

“We are currently actively engaged with the lift and property management industries, and relevant government departments to develop a feasible solution. If this solution can be implemented for older lifts, it will address the root cause effectively.”

An existing penalty mechanism only covers full-scale power outages, with electricity providers paying fines based on the duration and the number of people affected.

Legislator Lo Wai-kwok acknowledged voltage dips were unavoidable due to factors such as adverse weather and opposed imposing penalties over such incidents, while Michael Tien Puk-sun said voltage dip incidents caused by human error should be fined.

Undersecretary for Environment and Ecology Diane Wong Shuk-han said officials had already met CLP Power and proposed incorporating a punitive framework for major voltage dip incidents into the scheme of control regulatory agreement, which the firm was still considering.

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