Sustainable Cities™

Rizhao: Mainstreaming solar energy on city level

Rizhao, a city of 3 million people in Northern China, is using solar energy to provide energy, heating and lighting. 99% of Rizhao’s households use solar water heaters, while almost all traffic lights, street lights and park illuminations are powered by photovoltaic solar cells. This case demonstrates how it was possible to change to solar energy and on the city’s increased ability to bring in foreign investment to the city – following 15 years of solar efforts.

Shanghai electricitet, 19. marts 2008, Af Henning Thomsen, Flickr, Creative Commons

The city of Rizhao combines incentives and legislative tools to encourage the large-scale, efficient use of renewable energy, especially solar energy. 99% of Rizhao's households use solar water heaters. In the suburbs and villages, more than 30 percent of households use solar water heaters, and over 6,000 households have solar cooking facilities. Almost all traffic lights, street lights and park illuminations are powered by photovoltaic solar cells.

Widespread use of solar energy has reduced the use of coal and helped to improve the environmental quality of Rizhao. The vision was to enhance environment thus helping the city's social, economic, and cultural development in the long run. Solar energy is seen as a starting point to trigger this positive cycle. And after 15 years of promoting solar energy this has proven effective. In 2007 the city is attracting a rapidly increasing amount of foreign direct investment. According to city officials, environment is one of the key factors bringing these investors to Rizhao.  

Solar advertisement in chinese village, 21 March 2007, By Auqapfel, Flickr, Creative Commons

The provincial government subsided research and development activities in the solar water heater industry. This investment gave technological breakthroughs, which increased efficiency and lowered unit costs. The cost of a solar water heater was brought down to the same level as an electric one. The city mandates all new buildings to incorporate solar panels and oversees the construction process to ensure proper installation. To raise awareness, the city held open seminars and ran public media campaigns on television. Government buildings and the homes of city leaders were the first to have the panels installed as role models. Some government bodies and businesses even provided free installation for employees.

The achievement of Rizhao was the result of a convergence of three key factors: a government policy that encourages solar energy use and financially supports research and development, local solar panel industries that seized the opportunity and improved their products, and the strong political will of the city's leadership to adopt it.

"After 15 years of effort, it seems the merit of using a solar heater has become common sense in Rizhao, and "you don't need to persuade people anymore to make the choice," according to Wang Shuguang, a government official."  Renewable Energy World

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014