Solar Water Heaters to be Installed on All Buildings Under 12 Stories in Kunming

This posting on Kunming’s newly implemented building and solar hot water installation policy is courtesy of Joan Hu of NRDC Beijing, who brought this to my attention.

In order to carry out the State Council’s energy reduction plan, the National Renewable Energy Law, and the National Development and Reform Commission’s mandate to popularize the use of solar hot water heaters, Kunming recently passed a mandate to require newly constructed buildings to install solar hot water heaters.  Kunming is known in China as “spring city” for its year round temperate climate, and is capitalizing on its natural sunshine to implement this new policy, which went into effect in January 2010.

While a significant percentage of residential homes have already installed solar hot water heaters, this mandate will expand the number and types of buildings that will be required to install solar hot water heaters.   All newly constructed, renovated, and expanded residential homes, hotels, hospitals, retirement homes, school dormitories, nurseries, and other places that need hot water must install solar hot water heaters during the construction process.  This regulation would apply to buildings under twelve stories.  Installing solar hot water heaters on buildings higher than twelve floors may pose safety concerns, and may not be technically feasible.  If a construction company cannot install solar hot water heaters on a building, it must submit a letter to the Ministry of Construction explaining its reasoning, and buildings experts will convene and make a final decision.

The mandate also lays out stipulations to make every effort to guarantee the quality of building construction and the quality of the solar hot water heater.  The materials used must abide by national and local quality standards.

Building plans must first be approved by Kunming’s Ministry of Construction before construction can commence.  If a construction company does not receive approval and starts construction, the Ministry of Construction will stop the project and the violating party will be fined 10,000-20,000 RMB.   Other violations by the architects, construction company, or management company can result in a fine up to 50,000 RMB; and in severe circumstances, the company’s license may be revoked.

While private real estate companies will not receive subsidies to install solar hot water heaters, other public buildings will likely receive some financial support.  Undoubtedly, real estate companies disapprove this new policy, since adding a solar hot water heater (approximately 3,000 RMB), will raise the total cost of construction and reduce its profit margin.  Yet, the average price of a house in Kunming is 600,000 RMB, so the 3,000 RMB required to install a solar hot water heater is not a completely unreasonable cost to the real estate company.

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