China and Germany – Joint Efforts for the Heating Transition

Germany and China are pioneers of the global Energiewende, i.e. the energy transition towards a green and sustainable economy. Especially in the power sector, both countries have already achieved a significant share of renewable energies. However, the decarbonization of the heating sector has just started to take off. In Germany, space heating and hot water demand account for 31% of total final energy demand. In 2018, renewable heating – e.g. biomass, solar thermal, geothermal, heat pumps – covered approx. 16% of Germany’s final energy demand for heating[1]. In recent years, China has enacted manifold policies to switch from coal utilization to more sustainable heating sources (including gas, electricity, and renewables). Trough such measures, coal combustion equivalent to 100 Mtce per year were avoided in North China until September 2019. The heating transition is challenging as it – much more than the power transition – effects individuals and requires an effective policy framework as well as clean and affordable heating solutions. Hence, within the Sino-German Energy Partnership, both countries share and exchange on policies, innovative solutions and best practices for driving the decarbonization of the heating sector.


Germany – renewables and innovative policies

Germany’s heating sector has historically been largely decentralized and reliant on natural gas (predominantly in cities) and heating oil. However, the last years have seen a rising share of renewable heating in new installations. In the residential sector, more than 80% solely use renewable heating or a mix of renewable and conventional heating sources (such as a hybrid solution consisting of a gas boiler and a solar thermal collector). While the share of heating oil has been steadily shrinking, heat pumps are on the rise. Innovative heating technologies that are being commercially used or piloted across Germany include, amongst others, low-emission biomass boilers, air source heat pumps in combination with PV modules, ground-source heat pumps, hybrid PV-thermal collectors in combination with heat pumps, waste water heat recovery systems, large biomass CHP for entire villages, large solar collector fields, geothermal district heating, combined heating and cooling grids, and industrial excess heat recovery.1

The development of renewable heating in Germany has largely been spurred by a push-and-pull approach enacted through different financial support measures, regulation and taxation – such as the Renewable Heating Act (EEWärmeG) and the Market Incentive Program (MAP). Currently, Germany’s ‘Climate Program 2030’ foresees new developments for further accelerating the heating transition. This includes additional funding schemes, a ban on heating oil boilers from 2026 onwards and a new “Building Energy Law” to further integrate renewable heating and energy efficiency policies. Furthermore, the adaptation of a constantly rising CO2 price from 2021 onwards will further help to exploit the economic potential of sustainable heating technologies in comparison to fossil fuels. Finally, the coal phase-out until 2038 calls for new, renewable solutions for integrating more renewables into large-scale district heating systems.

China – ‘fighting for a blue sky’

Coal combustion is a major contributor to both global warming and Northern China’s severe air pollution during the winter season. Hence, Chinese policy makers are pursuing the heat transition as a means for tackling both issues. Leading clean heating policy is the Clean Heating Plan for Northern Regions of China (2017-2021), which aims at increasing the share of clean heating (especially ‘clean coal’, electricity, gas, geothermal and renewables) to at least 70% by 2021, in comparison to 38% in 2016, equivalent to reducing scattered coal combustion by 150 Mtce by 2021. Further, China’s authorities are aiming at strengthening pricing and market mechanisms for electricity, heating and gas and improving the heating infrastructure. While China’s clean heating policies have proven to be very effective in urban areas – mainly by switching from coal to gas CHP – challenges remain for rural areas. In rural areas, insufficient heating infrastructure and low income are main hurdles for switching from cheap coal to (often) more expensive sustainable options.

Germany and China exchange on policies and solutions for sustainable heating

Germany and China cooperate and exchange on pressing challenges, solutions and best practices for accelerating the heat transition. Topics covered within the Sino-German Energy Partnership include:

  • Cost-effective subsidy policies for sustainable heating, building codes and energy efficiency standards for buildings.
  • Solutions and best practices for sustainable heating (focus on solar thermal, geothermal, heat pumps, biomass, hybrid applications) and applicability under different conditions.
  • Solutions for accelerating the rural heat transition.
  • Related cooperation topics: renewables in the power sector, hydrogen, biomethane


[1] Fraunhofer ISI, IFEU, IREES (2019): German Sustainable Heating Solutions – Best Practices and Applicability in China.



German Sustainable Heating Solutions - Best Practices and Applicability in China (English)

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German Sustainable Heating Solutions - Best Practices and Applicability in China (Chinese)

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PPT - Tendering scheme for innovative CHP and renewable district heating systems (IREES)

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Further Reads

【Standard Improvement】Sino-German cooperation promotes heat pump development in China

【Technology Forum】German best practice solutions for China’s heating transition - Sino-German Clean Heating Conference and Technology Forum

【Publication】German Sustainable Heating Solutions – Best Practices and Applicability in China

【Expert Roundtable】 FACILITATING EXCHANGE: Four Sino-German Expert Salons on Energy Efficiency and Heating

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