Development and Urbanization
Inspired by China’s 11th Five-Year Plan, which calls for energy efficiency, reduction of carbon emissions, and development of renewable energy sources, Chinese local governments hit the road towards a low carbon future. In 2007, Shenyang city invested some 10 billion Yuan in 188 geothermal heat pump (GHP) projects, based on technologies that were first commercially popularized by Northern European countries. GHP is a highly efficient and environmentally friendly technology for space heating, which relies on ground sources for heat extraction. And thus, Shenyang by far surpassed the former leader in GHP application: Beijing. This research project asks why did GHP implementation show exponential growth in Shenyang in the late 2000s relative to the modest growth trend in Beijing despite similar issues with air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions growth in both regions, cold weather winter patterns, and initially expressed interest in GHP technology by both local governments? Analysis of documents and interviews conducted with academics, businessmen and experts in the field suggests that the private sector has a limited influence on the development of the GHP sector in China. The key decisions are made within a narrow circle of government officials, therefore, local governance appears to be a main driver for the stark regional variation in GHP promotion. It also emphasizes the role of individuals in the political decision-making. This paper draws on a theory of the political entrepreneur in attempt to explore the role of local government and local officials in the rollout of low carbon technology in China.