Household transitions to clean energy in a multiprovincial cohort study in China


Household solid-fuel (biomass, coal) burning contributes to climate change and is a leading health risk factor. How and why households stop using solid-fuel stoves after adopting clean fuels has not been studied. We assessed trends in the uptake, use and suspension of household stoves and fuels in a multiprovincial cohort study of 753 Chinese adults and evaluated determinants of clean-fuel uptake and solid-fuel suspension. Over one-third (35%) and one-fifth (17%) of participants suspended use of solid fuel for cooking and heating, respectively, during the past 20 years. Determinants of solid-fuel suspension (younger age, widowed) and of earlier suspension (younger age, higher education and poor self-reported health status) differed from the determinants of clean-fuel uptake (younger age, higher income, smaller households and retired) and of earlier adoption (higher income). Clean-fuel adoption and solid-fuel suspension warrant joint consideration as indicators of household energy transition. Household energy research and planning efforts that more closely examine solid-fuel suspension may accelerate household energy transitions that benefit climate and human health.

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Fig. 1: Cooking and heating fuel transitions from baseline to present.
Fig. 2: Temporal trends in solid-fuel suspension and clean-fuel uptake.
Fig. 3: Distributions in household cooking and heating devices by province.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request. Requests for datasets generated and analysed during the current study will be reviewed and made available on a case-by-case basis by the corresponding author with input from co-authors, subject to compliance with Research Ethics Board restrictions for the survey data. Figs. 1–4 and Supplementary Figs. 1–4 contain primary data.

Code availability

Requests for code developed and annotated in Stata 13 and R to process and analyse the primary data collected in this study will be reviewed and made available upon reasonable request.


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We thank the study participants and field staff involved in the ICP study. This publication was supported by the Wellcome Trust, UK (grant 103906/Z/14/Z); National Natural Science Foundation of China, China (grant 81473044 and Innovative Research Groups grant 51521005); the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (grant 137535). E.C. received support through NIH/Fogarty’s Clean Cooking Implementation Science Network with support from the NIH Common Fund.

Author information

J.B., Q.C., M.E., P.E., F.K., X.Y., Y.W. and L.Z. designed, or contributed to the design of, the study. J.B., Q.C., E.C., L.Y. and Y.F. led the fieldwork. E.C. carried out the analysis. E.C., J.B., B.R., L.Y. and Q.C. wrote the paper, and all other authors contributed to discussion of the results and commented on the manuscript.

Correspondence to Ellison Carter or Jill Baumgartner.

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Carter, E., Yan, L., Fu, Y. et al. Household transitions to clean energy in a multiprovincial cohort study in China. Nat Sustain 3, 42–50 (2020).

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