Chinese boomtown makes solar heating the law

Solar powered heating systems for new residential buildings will become a legal obligation in the Chinese boom city of Shenzhen, as authorities attempt to harness the region's annual 2000 hours of sunshine.

The new law, the first of its kind in China, will apply to all residential buildings less than 12 stories high.

Only the tallest buildings will be exempt due to the technological limitations of implementing solar heating in tall buildings, Gao Erjian from the Shenzhen Construction Bureau told the China Daily newspaper.

Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, southern China, enjoys 2000 hours of sunshine a year – averaging at around 5.5 hours a day. This compares with the UK’s annual 1400 hours of sunshine, or 3.8 hours a day.

Shenzhen’s population exploded over the last quarter century, increasing about 32 times to reach 10 million in 2005, largely due to migration. The growth in energy demand associated with the population boom in turn prompted municipal powers to push for energy efficiency and the development of renewables.

“It’s an important law that will ensure the wider application of solar power in the city, a sign the municipal government is putting more emphasis on renewable resources,” Gao Erjian said.

Those who defy the new law when it comes into force on November 1 will be slapped with a fine ranging from 50,000 yuan ($6,250) to 500,000 yuan ($62,500) – unless they obtain special permission from the authorities by proving they are unable to implement the technology.

Shenzhen’s municipal authorities have ambitious plans for the development of solar power over the coming years. By 2010, the Shenzhen Construction Bureau wants half of the city’s buildings to use solar water heating, and a fifth to generate electricity from solar power.

Goska Romanowicz

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