Officially speaking, Beijing's winter usually starts on November 15 every year.
Mother Nature is not behind this miracle of scheduling. Rather, this is the date that the municipal utility authority is scheduled to start providing heat to all residential quarters.
This year, though, the calendar has changed. Beijing Heating Group (BJHG), the central municipal heating provider, turned on the heat to residential homes on a trial basis on November 7.
A BJHG spokesperson told the press on Monday that, with the exception of a few areas where emergency repair work was still to be done and should be completed soon, the company was ready for the coming winter.
On the morning of November 13, the Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported that roughly 1 million households in the city were connected to the heating system. The temperature in 80 per cent of those homes was no lower than 16 C.
Yesterday morning a roadside bicycle repairman told China Daily: "The heating has been on for a few days in my home (in a nearby apartment building). It's warm enough. I'm getting what I deserve for the 800 yuan (US$101) heating fee I paid."
Every residence pays a fee to receive heat in the winter. The fee is based on the household's size in square metres.
In Yizhuang, a satellite town of Beijing that is part of the BDA (for Beijing Development Area), owners of private villas with close to 400 square metres of floor space, the most luxurious class of home in Beijing, must pay a 5,000-yuan (US$634) heating fee.
BJHG has been using increasingly more natural gas over last few years, due to the city's rapid expansion, according to company sources. In 2005, demand for heat in Beijing increased by an equivalent of 3 million square metres of floor space. The figure for this year is not yet available. A typical residence measures about 100 square metres.
Nationwide, the winter heating system has been the target of much criticism. Complaints have ranged from residences being too hot in the autumn to too cold on the coldest days. Some have said the system is too wasteful, too rigid in pricing and too slow in collecting fees.
As in many other areas, there have been calls for efforts to reform the system.
Source: China Daily