Solar heating hot due to subsidies

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Beijing residents and developers will be able to apply for government subsidies totaling 200 million yuan to install solar water-heating systems in residential and public buildings.

Under the scheme, the government will subsidize 1 million square meters of solar heating panels.

The program will encourage the installation of panels for multi-family and public buildings, with panels needing to be 100 sq m, or larger, to qualify.

A 100-sq-m panel can supply eight to 10 tons of hot water, enough for between 50 and 100 families, according to a report by the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform (BMCDR).

The government program offers a 200-yuan subsidy per sq m of heating panel.

"After buildings are equipped with such systems, house owners will no longer need to pay high electric bills. They will just have to pay their water bills, which cost only 3.7 yuan a ton, much lower than the electricity cost," said Li Bin, an official in the energy development division of BMCDR.

Because solar energy is a modern and cost-effective way to satisfy the huge energy needs of Beijingers, many developers and house owners are already using renewable energy sources and more want to follow.

"We were planning to build a solar water-heating system long before the subsidy was available," said Xu Daming, project manager at Beautiful Cube, a large community built by Sino Hydro real estate in Lishuiqiao.

Since last year, the State-owned real estate company has invested more than 10 million yuan on the construction of solar water heating systems with heat collectors totaling 2,300 sq m.

They will supply hot water for more than 2,100 households in Beautiful Cube.

"Actually, the subsidy given by the government barely covers the cost of the system," Xu said.

"We are installing solar panels because of the need of our target house buyers, most of whom are young people and unwilling to pay high living costs."

Jiao Kun, a 28-year-old house owner in Beautiful Cube, said the solar heating system was one of the things that attracted her.

"I was very impressed by the convenient hot water system," she said.

"It's part of the reason why I purchased the house. I think a green lifestyle is the trend for the young generation. It doesn't only save our limited resources but also reduces our living costs."

And while the program will subsidize solar heating in many new developments, residents in older neighborhoods are also very excited about it.

However, older buildings are less easily converted to solar heating and existing heating systems, relying on gas and electricity, can be difficult to decommission.

"I think we should use solar energy, since it costs nothing compared to electricity or gas for heating," said Cui Fengzhen, a 63-year-old woman living in Zaoyingbeili community.

"But I'm not sure whether we can use such a system in our neighborhood because it is a very old community and it will cost lots of money to install and maintain."

The subsidy offered by the government is only the first step in a series of measures aimed at encouraging more use of solar energy.

The government will also adopt a series of strict regulations for developers that promote the use of solar energy, said Zhu Dunzhi, an expert with Beijing Solar Energy Research Institute.

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