|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is located in a severe cold climate zone of the People''s Republic of China, where winter temperatures can drop to as low as 40 degree Celsius and subzero temperatures typically last for 6 months of the year. Thus, adequate heating is a basic human need and essential for socioeconomic activities. Coal has been the predominant fuel for heating in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, contributing to indoor and outdoor air pollution and undermining human health. A district heating system with a centralized plant and a network of distribution pipes to provide space heating and hot water is one of the most energy-efficient and least-polluting heating modes in urban areas. Such a system allows heat sources to be located away from densely populated areas and has the flexibility to use a wide range of energy sources. As rapid urbanization increases the demand for heating, heavy use of coal-based district heating will worsen air quality, especially in large urban areas such as Hohhot. Switching to a low-emission fossil fuel, such as natural gas, and emission-free renewable energy is urgently needed.
Hohhot has the highest concentration of urban residents in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. About 10% of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region''s total population resides in the city. As urbanization and population growth increase heating demand, Hohhot faces critical gaps in its heating infrastructure. As of 2013, district heating covered only 86.8 million square meters of floor area; existing isolated, decrepit, and inefficient heating systems for an additional 42.0 million square meters of floor area need to be replaced. The hazy skies above Hohhot already have a high concentration of inhalable particulate matter during winter. Through a decree issued in 2013, the Hohhot municipal government promoted the use of natural gas to meet the growing energy demand and address associated environmental and health concerns. The decree includes (i) a natural gas subsidy for residential heating, and (ii) financial support to heating operators that replace small coal-fired neighborhood boilers with natural gas boilers in central business districts. Compared with coal, natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide, a fraction of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, and negligible sulfur oxides. Since the decree was issued, the Hohhot municipal government has provided CNY230 million in subsidies for natural gas use and switching from coal to gas boilers. The Hohhot municipal government policy to promote natural gas in district heating is aligned with the central government''s 2013 Air Pollution Prevention Act, which requires all prefecture-level cities like Hohhot to reduce inhalable particulate matter by 10% in 2017 compared with 2012 levels.
The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is a resource-rich province. In addition to being the People's Republic of China''s top coal-producing province, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has large reserves of natural gas and excellent solar and wind energy resources. In 2013, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region reached 18 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity, equivalent to 25% of the total installed wind power capacity in the People's Republic of China. The Government of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region plans to increase installed wind capacity up to 50 gigawatts by 2020. The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region prioritizes combined heat and power plants to meet the electricity and heat demand, rather than electricity-only wind power plants. As a result, many wind farms are forced to disconnect from the grid, particularly at night during the winter when power demand is low but wind power generation is high. In 2013, about 11.3 terawatt-hours of wind power generation was curtailed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The National Energy Administration in the People's Republic of China issued a policy notice in 2013 strongly encouraging the use of curtailed wind power for district heating, which requires high energy use at night during the winter. Both the Government of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Hohhot municipal government are keen to pilot the use of curtailed wind power for district heating, taking into consideration that the current curtailed wind power in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region could meet the heating demand up to about 100 million square meters of floor area and contribute to better air quality in the winter by eliminating hazardous emissions from coal-based heating systems. Yet, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region currently does not have a business model for using the curtailed wind energy for district heating and needs to gain more insights into the technical and economic challenges before wider deployment. The proposed project will demonstrate a large-scale low-emission and low-carbon district heating system using wind power and natural gas. Because of its easy access to sufficient natural gas and excess wind power, Hohhot is an appropriate choice to demonstrate such heating system. If successful, it can be replicated in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and elsewhere in the People's Republic of China''s northern provinces.
The Asian Development Bank has supported two other projects in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to provide energy-efficient district heating. The Hohhot project is a logical next step to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from such projects through advanced natural gas boiler technology. The project will also pilot a new business model to enable sharing of renewable energy subsidies. The project is closely aligned with the Midterm Review of Strategy 2020, which identifies environmentally sustainable growth as a priority for helping developing member countries move onto a low-carbon growth path by improving energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy. The project also supports the goal of Asian Development Bank''s Energy Policy, which prioritizes energy efficiency and access to energy for all, including district heating. It is aligned with Asian Development Bank''s country partnership strategy, 2011- 2015 for the People's Republic of China, which identifies environmental sustainability as one of the three pillars of Asian Development Bank assistance.