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China Unveils Clean Heating Plan as Shortages Continue


A man rides an electric scooter past steaming manhole covers on a cold day in Beijing, Dec. 1, 2017.

China announced on Sunday a five-year plan to convert northern Chinese cities to clean heating this winter through to 2021, state media reported, amid a deepening heating crisis.

An unprecedented government campaign to switch millions of households and thousands of businesses from coal to natural gas in northern China this winter has backfired.

Severe natural gas shortages have sent prices soaring nationwide, hitting businesses and residents across China’s industrial heartland.

A worker installs gas pipes along the walls of residential houses in the village of Heqiaoxiang outside of Baoding, Hebei province, China, Dec. 5, 2017.
A worker installs gas pipes along the walls of residential houses in the village of Heqiaoxiang outside of Baoding, Hebei province, China, Dec. 5, 2017.

The plan was jointly announced by 10 government agencies, including the state planning National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration, the online edition of Securities Times quoted the China Energy News as saying.

The plan covers 2017 through to 2021.

The government has made “concrete arrangements” regarding geothermal heating, biomass heating, solar heating, gas heating, electric heating, industrial waste heating, and clean coal-fired central heating, the Securities Times said.

Half of northern China would have converted to clean heating by 2019, reducing bulk coal burning by 74 million tons, it said.

It gave no further details.

A man shovels coal he uses to heat his home in his courtyard in the village of Heqiaoxiang outside of Baoding, Hebei province, China, Dec. 5, 2017.
A man shovels coal he uses to heat his home in his courtyard in the village of Heqiaoxiang outside of Baoding, Hebei province, China, Dec. 5, 2017.

Factories are closing or operating at reduced capacity, businesses are seeing profits shrink as supply chains are disrupted, and residents are struggling to keep warm in subzero temperatures without adequate heating at home or in classrooms, according to interviews conducted by Reuters across the region this month.

The campaign to convert coal to gas is part of long-running government efforts to clean the region’s toxic air after decades of unbridled economic growth.

On Saturday, PetroChina began diverting nearly 7 million cubic meters of natural gas from the southern province of Guangdong to icy northern China to ease gas shortages, state television said Sunday.

Chinese oil and gas major CNOOC had also started supplying some 3 million to 5 million cubic meters of natural gas per day from the South China Sea and its liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Zhuhai city to fill the gap in Guangdong, it said.

The gas swap was organized by the NDRC.

Gas shortages also spread to Changsha city, capital of the southern province of Hunan. Households that have bought 1,500 cubic meters or more this year were limited to buying 15 cubic meters per day from Dec. 15 onward, state television said.

The gas shortage in Changsha could exceed 60 million cubic meters this winter, it said.

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