Household Energy Transition in China

Research Collaborators: Chris Barrington Leigh and Jill Baumgartner with Brian Robinson (McGill), Sam Harper (McGill), Ellison Carter (Colorado State University), Shu Tao (Peking University), and Yuanxun Zhang (University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences).
Funders: SSHRC and CIHR

crowded Beijing street full of motorbikes and vehicles in the smogAlmost half the world's population burn highly polluting coal and biomass fuel in traditional stoves for cooking and heating. Current rural household energy use practices in China involve burning large quantities of solid fuel, especially for space heating in northern China, and contribute to high levels of air pollution. The primary goal of this multidisciplinary study is to estimate the impacts of an innovative household-level energy transition project in Beijing, China, on energy use practices, household economics and welfare, and indoor environmental quality. Beijing Municipality's "coal to electricity" program subsidizes electric heat pumps and electricity and bans coal in 3,700 villages in the Beijing Municipality region, impacting over 7.9 million rural dwellers. Importantly, these policies are being implemented in waves, offering a unique opportunity to evaluate a natural experiment with rigorous impact evaluation techniques. We will follow ~1000 households over time, with annual household questionnaires and measurements of indoor temperature, indoor and outdoor air pollution, exposure, and health markers.

This study aims to answer the following questions:

  1. How do the coal ban and heat pump subsidy impact household energy choices? a. How do these impact the heating technology used and the duration of use? b. How do these impact indoor air temperatures through the winter? c. What are the implications for the economic efficiency of the policy?
  2. How do the coal ban and heat pump subsidy impact household welfare? a. What are the immediate income effects on households, and how do these compare across initial household wealth levels? b. How does the income shock from upfront investments and higher electricity costs affect other measures of wellbeing (e.g., education, labour allocation, subjective well-being, etc.) c. What are the impacts on exposure and health outcomes?
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