China Focus: Clean energy heating systems keep homes toasty

Amid China's efforts to cut carbon emissions, an increasing number of people in the country are bidding farewell to traditional coal-fired heating and switching to clean and renewable sources to warm up their homes.

At the home of an elderly resident in Hexi District in north China's Tianjin Municipality, the room temperature is above 20 degrees Celsius, in sharp contrast to the freezing weather outside. "In recent years, this house has been heated by geothermal power coming from a depth of about 1,680 meters underground and it has worked pretty well," the homeowner said.

According to local authorities in Tianjin, the total area of geothermal heating in the city reached 34.05 million square meters during the winter heating season from 2019 to 2020. Besides Tianjin, provinces such as Shaanxi, Hebei, Henan and Shandong have also been using geothermal power for heating.

Nuclear power is also becoming an alternative source of heating. The first nuclear heating project in northeast China has been operational in Wafangdian City of Liaoning Province, since November. The project utilizes the residual thermal power of the Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Station to generate heating for residents in an eco-friendly way without carbon emissions.

Last year, nuclear heating projects were also put into use in Haiyan County, east China's Zhejiang Province, and Haiyang City, east China's Shandong Province.

With the rise of the photovoltaic industry, solar power has also been widely used for heating in northern China. The Tianjin Jin'an Thermal Power Co., Ltd. has begun using solar power to heat its workplaces after installing 48 units of solar panels and 36 units of monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic panels on the roof.

In a more innovative approach, waste heat generated by big data centers has also been used for heating in cities such as Tianjin and Nanjing. Han Jianjun, who works with the north China data center of tech giant Tencent, said the heat generated from the data center has been used to warm the office area.

The transition from coal to clean energy has had little effect on residential heating costs, as the new heating alternatives have just altered the heat source while retaining the previous pipeline networks. Moreover, governments across the country usually cap domestic heating costs and subsidize heating supply companies.

For the households in Tianjin that have switched to geothermal heating, the heating price remained unchanged at 25 yuan (3.58 U.S. dollars) per square meter, and a household would generally pay 2,000 to 3,000 yuan for the entire heating season lasting five months.

The new energy heating can largely reduce carbon emissions, contributing to the country's efforts to achieve its carbon peak and carbon neutrality goals.

It is estimated that the solar power heating project of Tianjin Jin'an Thermal Power Co., Ltd., which covers over 3,000 square meters, can save the use of standard coal by 82 tonnes a year, reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide by 213 tonnes.

Dong Deliang, deputy manager of project management department at Liaoning Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Co., Ltd., said the project is expected to save 5,726 tonnes of standard coal every year, slashing 14,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

New energy heating has a promising development prospect in China. According to a five-year plan on renewable energy development released by the government earlier this year, the scale of non-electric utilization such as geothermal heating, biomass heating and fuel, as well as solar heating will reach more than 60 million tonnes of standard coal by 2025. 

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