German Sustainable Heating Solutions – Best Practices and Applicability in China

The study identifies relevant German best practices in the field of sustainable heating for the transformation of China’s heating and cooling market. The focus is on implemented, innovative, sustainable and integrated heat generation and heat supply solutions, taking into account local conditions and economic framework conditions.


The study has two objectives:

Propose solutions which reduce the severe local pollution linked to the heavy use of coal and other fossil fuels for heating purposes in China;

Propose solutions which mitigate climate change.

The focus is on solutions that can be implemented now and over the coming decade. However, the technologies discussed in the study should also support the long-term climate targets for 2050, which require substantial greenhouse gas mitigation efforts in both China and Germany. 


To select sustainable heating solutions for discussion in the Chinese context, in a first step, a long list of 20 sustainable heating technologies was identified, described and discussed with experts from the China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute EPPEI (China). The long list of selected heating solutions contains heating (partly: cooling) technologies and systems, which contribute to a clean heating strategy combining low pollutant emissions and low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Important selection criteria were the following:

  • The solutions show a certain degree of innovativeness in combination with promising growth opportunities and a good market diffusion. Nevertheless, some more innovative technologies were included, which might become relevant with a view towards 2030 and beyond.
  • Standard solutions, such as gas and oil condensing boilers, were not included in the list due to their climate impact.
  • Clean coal technologies (i.e. coal-based technologies with low local emissions, such as particulates), were not included as they continue to generate a strong impact on the climate. Thus, the technologies chosen aim at double benefits for local and global emissions.
  • The solutions for which Germany lacks experience (e.g. straw boilers) were not included in the list.

The long list was divided into three main groups, spanning a range from simpler technologies for individual uses to more complex large-scale solutions, especially for urban areas: decentralised heating systems, local district heat (DH), and large DH. Based on the long list, a shorter list of 10 sustainable heating strategies was selected in discussion with experts from EPPEI. These 10 technologies are analyzed in detail in the report of the study. They built the basis for a stakeholder workshop end of November 2019 in Beijing with 150 participants.


China has also placed the heating transition at the heart of the energy revolution. China is striving for an ambitious 70% clean heating share by 2021. This is of utmost importance not only for tackling climate change, but furthermore for reducing air pollution in the country’s mega cities. China’s Energy Revolution follows the principle of “Four Revolutions and One Cooperation”. The latter implies exchange and learning through international cooperation. The Sino-German Energy Partnership between the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the National Energy Administration (NEA) serves to build bridges between both countries’ governments, industry and academia, and finding solutions to common challenges in the energy sector.
For many years, sustainable heating has been one of the partnership’s focal topics. Up to now, this focused on policy instruments for the heat transition. In 2019 however, an ex-change of best-practice heating solutions was added. The comprehensive study report highlights 10 German best-practice solutions and discusses their applicability for China. It is the result of a research project conducted by experts from Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, ifeu - Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and the Institute for Resource Efficiency and Energy Strategies (IREES) with the support of the China Electric Power Planning and Engineering Institute (EPPEI).

The 10 solutions include:

Decentralised heating systems Local District Heat Large District Heat
Reduced emission biomass Waste water heat Large solar collector fields
Air source heat pump + PV Bioenergy villages Geothermal DH
Ground source heat pump   Combined H/C incl. gas CHP, heat pump, thermal storage
Hybrid PVT + heat pump   Industrial excess heat



June 2019 to November 2019


Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH


ifeu - Institute for Energy and Environmental Research IFEU

Institute for Resource Efficiency and Energy Strategies (IREES)