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Air Conditioning Fresh Water Pilot Scheme

updated: August 2006 By John A. Herbert| Director

Before 2000 air conditioning systems using fresh water heat rejection (cooling towers) were prohibited in Hong Kong because of a fresh water shortage in the territory. However the alternative air-cooled systems, consumed significantly more energy, and that cost more in operating costs.

Convert to water cooled heat rejection (cooling towers) is a valuable energy conservation strategy, keeping more of your hard earned money in your pocket.

Click here to read more about Kelcroft's cooling tower expertise (1 page PDF)

Benefits of converting to cooling towers systems include:

  • Lower energy cost
  • Lower capital cost
  • Lower noise level
  • Lower environmental impacts


In June 2000, a co-operative effort between various government departments, brought about the introduction of the fresh water energy conservation pilot scheme.

Initially restricted to six districts, the pilot scheme offered the opportunity for commercial building owners and operators, to install evaporative type heat rejection (cooling towers) for air-conditioning chiller plant. Subsequently after initial success the pilot scheme was widened to cover additional districts.

In plain English, air conditioning systems for commercial operations, may now use fresh water for evaporative cooling for heat rejection purposes - cooling towers.

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Cost Savings

You are probably wondering already about those promised cost savings - air conditioning systems with water based heat rejection save money! In fact, a lot of money can be saved every year.

Air conditioning systems account for more than forty percent (40%) of commercial building energy usage and up to seventy percent (70%) of the electrical usage.

The energy cost for cooling tower systems are typically 17% lower than dry type air cooled air conditioning systems.

Considering that the real cost of energy never diminishes, charges have risen over the last ten years, the long term energy and cost savings accrue very quickly.

For example, a small system having 600 Kw (approx. 170 tons) cooling capacity would save more than HK$ 500,000 per year.

Let's assume a conservative lifespan, say fifteen years, discounting increasing energy costs, and inflation, a water based cooling tower system would save you approximately HK$ 7.5 million. Lets put it another way, your competitors are already saving HK$7.5 million allowing them to lower their management charges.

In addition to your direct cost savings, there are indirect benefits too, the reduced electrical consumption means lower environmental emissions from the power station.

Pilot Zones

Over the years since its inception the pilot scheme has been gradually widened covering additional districts, outlying Islands, and Kowloon. If your building is within the permitted zone one may apply. You need not convert the whole building, individual premises, such as restaurants, data centres, etc. may apply too.

At the time of writing, the scheme has been extended until May 2006. If you interested to find out more, call Kelcroft today and we can check if your district/building is eligible.

Cooling Tower Pilot Scheme Challenges

Whilst lower energy charges are welcomed, possibly the biggest challenge facing those who own and operate cooling towers is managing the Legionnaires' Disease Risk.

Careless operation of cooling towers endangers the health of your employees and the general public. The pilot scheme, recognizing this risk, demands compliance with the Legionnaires Disease Code of Practice (2000) and submission of regular water quality test reports.

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In addition, since water is a precious resource, the pilot scheme guide also stipulates that condenser water effluent (blowdown) shall be utilised to serve toilets in the building.


One of the first questions we are asked - Are the scheme requirements particularly onerous? In short, No, the requirements are straight forward from the engineering point of view.

And normally followed with, how long does it take? That question is not so easy to answer. The application process demands multiple applications and submissions to various government departments for vetting and approval.

Inherently, this process requires adequate time for application preparation and processing BEFORE installation works can commence.

To put this into perspective, if you are considering changing your chiller plant during the next winter season, the investigation and assessment needs to be started months before.

Moreover EMSD recommends that applications for systems requiring one hundred cubic metres per day or more (large systems) will require an application assessment period of approximately twelve months.

Don't get left behind

As more building owners adopt cooling towers systems, as your competitors energy costs are lower they attract longer lease tenants. Don't get left behind, act today.


April 2005 - EMSD announces that the fresh water pilot scheme has been extended until May 2006.

June 2006 - EMSD announces that the fresh water pilot scheme has been extended until May 2008.


If you are considering new chiller plant or replacement chiller, call Kelcroft today - we have the skill and experience to help plan and manage the entire process.

Further Information

For further information regarding Kelcroft's services, call today, our Hong Kong office telephone: +(852) 2335 9830, send us a fax +(852) 2335 9862, or send us an email message