A transition perspective on alternatives to coal in Chinese district heating

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift


China uses half the world’s annual coal consumption, since coal is the primary energy source for heating in urban areas, particularly in northern China. This entails significant challenges for urban air quality in China and for the global climate. Unlike the electricity and transportation sectors, the heating sector has received little attention from policy and research actors in China, despite very high penetration of urban district heating (DH) systems, which supply more than 80% of northern China’s urban buildings. DH systems can facilitate efficiency improvements and the use of renewable energy sources. This study explores the dynamics and possibility to expand alternative energy sources (natural gas, biomass, direct geothermal heat, ground-source heat pump, municipal waste heat, industrial waste heat) for DH in China. We apply an analytical framework largely based on the multi-level perspective on socio-technical transitions, in which transitions are interpreted as the result of interactions between niche, regime and landscape elements. The study provides an integrated picture of the socio-technical structure and functioning of DH in China. The results show that an energy transition in Chinese DH systems has barely started. The system is characterised by stability of the coal-based DH regime, while a number of alternative niches are struggling to emerge. Among these, natural gas is the most successful example. However, at local level different niches present opportunities in terms of physical availability, economic viability and capacity to address landscape pressure. The introduction of an appropriate sustainable heat roadmap and policy framework at national level could promote and facilitate this energy transition.


  • Jingjing Zhang
  • Lorenzo Di Lucia
Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • Imperial College London

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Energisystem


Sidor (från-till)49-68
Antal sidor20
TidskriftInternational Journal of Sustainable Energy Planning and Management
StatusPublished - 2015
Peer review utfördJa