By Anders Hove
TIELU CUN, BEIJING—We recently visited Tielu Cun 铁炉村, a village of around 240 people, mostly farmers, in Beijing’s Yanqing county. For centuries, people in this village have heated their homes with coal. In fact, when the government proposed to modernize the village with new houses, villagers suggested installing coal-heated kangs (炕).
Instead, thanks in part to government subsidies, as of this winter all the whitewashed townhouses in the newly rebuilt village are heated with ground-source heat pumps (地源热泵), installed by Eco-Greenland Energy Tech (依科瑞德(北京)能源科技有限公司).
Despite the freezing winter this year, the homes in the village are comfortable and warm. Just as importantly, they’re clean. Walking past during our recent visit, we saw a young mother playing with her baby daughter on a towel spread out on an immaculately spotless white floor. “Cozy, and clean too!” said our guide.
The village leader, Mr. Han, said villagers were skeptical of heat pumps initially, but one demonstration was enough to win them over. Mr. Han says he likes to jog every day along the winding mountain roads, so for him the clear blue skies are a nice plus. Villagers hope winter tourists from Beijing will agree.
Coal hasn’t left the village for good, though. Along a nearby train line, coal trains rolled past in a nearly continuous flow. The transition away from coal has a long way to go, but it starts in places like Tielu.
Anders Hove is Associate Director of Research at the Paulson Institute.