To mitigate health and environmental effects from coal-based home heating, the Beijing Municipality has implemented a programme in 3,700 villages that subsidizes electric heat pumps and electricity, and bans coal. Here, we estimate this programme’s impact on household energy use and expenditure, well-being and indoor environmental quality by comparing treated and untreated villages in three districts that vary in socioeconomic conditions. We find that, under this programme, households in high- and middle-income districts eliminated coal use with benefits to indoor temperature, indoor air pollution and life satisfaction. In a low-income district, the policy had partial effectiveness: coal use was contingent on household wealth, and there were fewer benefits to the indoor environment and negative impacts on well-being. These results suggest that a rapid household energy transition can be effective, but it is essential to appropriately control subsidies and fine-tune supports to limit transitional hardships for the less affluent.
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Datasets generated and analysed during this study will be made available on a case-by-case basis on request to the corresponding author, with input from the co-authors, subject to compliance with Research Ethics Board restrictions for the survey data.
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We are grateful to A. Ballyk and M. Smailes for research assistance, and S. Harper and R. Ravishankara for comments on a draft of the manuscript. This work was supported by a McGill University Emerging Scholars Accelerator grant and by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants 435-2016-0531 and 430-2017-00998.