China renovates buildings to save energy

13:18, October 23, 2010      

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The heating supply in Changchun, capital of northeast China's Jilin Province, will not come on until Oct. 28, but the outdoor temperature has already dropped to below zero at night.

The temperature inside Li Guiling's house was 14 degrees Celsius on Friday, warmer than before a government-funded renovation on the building was done.

"The indoor temperature would rarely reach 16 degrees Celsius in the past, even when the heating was on," she said.

Millions of other Chinese living in communities where houses were built before the 1990s still suffer through the cold winters as their houses are not well insulated.

Zhang Wenhai, an energy efficiency expert with the Jilin Provincial Society of Earthwork Construction, said nationwide, 40 billion square meters of buildings need to be renovated to save energy and make homes warmer.

The Chinese government introduced a program in 2006 which aims to renovate 150 million square meters of buildings in north China by the end of this year.

As a result of the program, Li's house was renovated this year.

"A 6-cm thick wall board was affixed on the outside walls of the building and workers also replaced aluminum alloy windows with plastic steel windows for us," said the elderly lady.

Gong Wenyi, general manager of Jilin Tongxin Heating Group, said 60 percent of buildings in the province still needed such renovations to improve energy efficiency.

"Residents have repeatedly complained that the heating was not enough to keep their houses warm," he said.

He said so far the renovations were effective. In a pilot program completed last year, the indoor temperature rose from 16 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees on average.

"Such renovations of the aged buildings can contribute a lot to energy saving and emission reductions," he said.

In Harbin, capital of northeast Heilongjiang Province, the energy efficiency renovations on 20 downtown apartment blocks has -- aside from saving energy -- given the city a facelift.

"The concrete-covered building walls have been turned into European-style white and pink ones with spires at the top. It is very beautiful," said Li San, a local fruit peddler.

Making people pay for their heating costs on a metered basis is another way China is increasing energy efficiency. This is a radical change for China as only since 2004 have people had to pay for their heating, before that the government totally subsidized the cost.

From 2006, residents in several big cities must pay to keep their homes warm on a metered basis. However, still most people in China are charged for their heating based on floor space, not energy consumption.

This may change in the future as charging for heating according to usage is proving a good way of cutting energy consumption.

In Taiyuan, capital of north China's coal-rich Shanxi Province, 80 households in a community for hospital workers tested the metered-based heating system last year. Each household spent 25 percent less on heating than they did before.

"We can turn off the heating, when nobody is at home. The newly-installed heating control also enables us to control the temperature in different rooms," said Dong Yali, one of the residents.

The city government has aimed to extend the reform to the whole city by 2011.

Source: Xinhua


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