Energy for Sustainable Development

The majority of rural residents in China are dependent on traditional fuels, but the quality and quantity of existing data on the process of fuel switching in rural China are insufficient to have a clear picture of current conditions and a well-grounded outlook for the future.

Based on an analysis of a rural household survey data in Hubei province in 2004, we explore patterns of residential fuel use within the conceptual framework of
fuel switching using statistical approaches. Cross-sectional data show that the transition from biomass to modern commercial sources is still at an early stage, incomes may have to rise substantially in order for absolute biomass use to fall, and residential fuel use varies tremendously across geographic regions due to disparities in availability of different energy sources. Regression analysis using logit and tobit models suggest that income, fuel prices, demographic characteristics, and topography have significant effects on fuel switching.

Moreover, while switching is occurring, the commercial energy source which appears to be the principal substitute for biomass in rural households is coal. Given that burning coal in the household is a major contributor to general air pollution in China and to negative health outcomes due to indoor air pollution, further transition to modern and clean fuels such as biogas, LPG, natural gas and electricity is important. Further income growth induced by New Countryside Construction and improvement of modern and clean energy accessibility will play a critical role in the switching process.