Farmers in Xinyu, a village in Haimen, Jiangsu province, install solar panels on their roofs. The panels will reduce the use of electricity generated by thermal power plants.
China will unswervingly promote the shift from coal to clean energy, including natural gas, as heating sources while rural areas of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region consider the environmental and social benefits of such a shift, according to Li Ganjie, minister of ecological environment.
"There is a natural gas shortage in China. The value of natural gas, however, can vary with usage. Limited resources can embody their greatest value if they can be used to replace coal as a heating source," Li said on the sidelines of the ongoing National People's Congress.[Special Coverage]
The shift from coal to natural gas as heating source could not only bring great economic benefits but also social benefits, he said.
The pollutants discharged from one metric ton of bulk coal in rural areas are equal to those discharged by 15 tons of coal used for power generation. More than 50 million tons of bulk coal are used for heating every year in the 28 major cities in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The reduction of bulk coal as a heating source could contribute a lot to curbing air pollution and decreasing PM 2.5 concentration, he said.
Analysis has found one-third of air quality improvement in the region happened thanks to the shift from coal to clean energy as heating sources, he said.
He also said rural residents in the region have highly welcomed the shift, as natural gas has brought much convenience to their life. With natural gas as a heating source, residents are spared from cleaning the dust generated by coal use.
Li said great effort had been made last year to ensure heating for rural residents in the region was not affected because of the shift to clean energy.
He said almost 2,400 officials inspected more than 25,000 villages in the region over five days to check if residents were enjoying normal heating and found the heating for 215 villages was affected.
"Officials were dispatched to stations in these affected villages to monitor construction work, and all residents enjoyed normal heating after a few days," he said.