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Special> Low-Carbon Living> Focus
UPDATED: January 15, 2010 Web Exclusive
Low-Carbon Homes for a Healthier Planet
Government subsidies and lower thermostat settings reduce energy consumption


A home equipped with Bosch heating products 

On a cold day, you return home after work. You take off your coat in the 22℃ living room, go to the 18℃ kitchen, read in the 22℃ study after dinner, take a 40℃ hot bath and then go to sleep peacefully. Reducing indoor temperatures by just 1℃ can save individual households 6 percent on operating costs. Reasonable indoor temperatures can reduce not only energy consumption, but also emission of greenhouse gases.

Energy conservation and use of renewable energies

Statistics show that in China, the emission of carbon dioxide produced by energy consumption of buildings accounts for 34 percent of the country's total emissions, while household heating consumes the biggest proportion of energy among the total energy consumption of buildings. Improving energy utilization efficiency in household heating is therefore of great significance for China to promote the reduction of carbon emissions.

Meng Qingfeng, a product manager at Bosch Thermotechnology (Beijing) Co. Ltd., told Beijing Review that low-carbon heating is nothing more than two points. The first is energy conservation, because the lower energy consumption is, the lower carbon emissions will be. The second is to develop clean energies that don't produce carbon dioxide, like wind power, hydropower, solar energy and geothermal energy.

For the goal of saving energy, Bosch has developed a type of household condensing boiler. Compared with other products of the same type, this product can reduce energy consumption by 30 percen. Exhaust gas from ordinary boilers is released through the chimney. But, with advanced condensing technology, steam in the exhaust gas can be recycled and used a second time.

In the meantime, Bosch is striving to develop renewable energies. According to Meng, in Beijing, Shanghai, Lhasa and some other cities, by connecting Bosch flat plate solar collectors with heating boilers and water storage devices, people can use solar energy for household heating and hot water supply. Compared with traditional heating equipment, Bosch products can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 400 to 500 kg per square meter of space.

At present, all Bosch heating equipment is imported from Germany, aimed mainly at customers from the middle and high-end markets. However, "middle and high-end customers are after all the minority and the low-end group is the majority. From the angle of reducing carbon emissions, the effect will be stronger when our products are more widely promoted," said Meng, who thinks that some Bosch products will be more suitable for the middle and low-end markets next year.

According to Bosch marketing manager Xia Hong, even in the midst of the global economic crisis, company sales achieved double-digit growth. Developing renewable energies is now a common international goal. "From the management team to the technology and marketing departments, Bosch is focused on promoting renewable energy products in China," Xia said. Meng also thinks that as energy supplies have grown smaller, developing products that save energy and protect the environment has become the common understanding of various circles. This is also the direction for companies to achieve sustainable development.

The need for government guidance

As for reducing carbon emissions from household heating, building design plays an important role. Some people complain that Chinese buildings are not well designed, saying that poor insulation hinders efficient energy utilization. Meng said this is a misunderstanding. According to him, the Chinese Ministry of Construction has implemented compulsory conservation standards for heating in newly built buildings, reducing household energy consumption by 65 percent compared with the level in 1980. At present, newly designed buildings in Beijing and Shanghai have almost the same standards as ordinary energy-saving buildings in Germany. The most important thing now is to check the implementation of these compulsory standards.

Meng said that different rooms in the house require different levels of heating. He suggests keeping a regulating heater in every room to lower the temperature in rooms when they are empty. Bosch thermal technology products are equipped with intelligent controlling systems that automatically allocate heat to rooms with different temperature demands. "Without such control, the temperature in all rooms might be 25℃, thus wasting a large amount of energy," Meng said.

Since most consumers lack awareness of the need to reduce emissions, economic incentives are important. "Encouraging consumers to consider energy conservation from the angle of saving money requires the guidance of the government," said Meng. The government's role in leading customers to choose energy-saving and emissions-reducing products is obvious. According to Meng, consumers in the European Union who buy solar energy products with Solarkeymark certification are eligible to receive government subsidies worth up to two-thirds of the product price. Government promotion has markedly developed the solar energy product market in Europe.

In China, the government provides renewable energy heating supply subsidies mainly to project and building developers. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development provide subsidies via different channels. In western China, for example, developers can receive subisdies of 60 yuan ($8.78) per square meter if they install solar energy products and 80 yuan ($11.71) per square meter if they install a geothermal heat pump. However, Meng doesn't see much benefit in giving subsidies to companies. According to him, the government should grant subsidies to the final users. "The more people who receive subsidies, the more people will use such energy-saving products, and the better it will be for the long-term development of companies," he said.

Beijing Review is profiling several companies as part of a yearlong series on corporate and individual efforts to promote a low-carbon lifestyle

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