Iceland is bringing geothermal heating to China

This solar farm floats atop a flooded coal mine
This solar farm floats atop a flooded coal mine

Technology developed in Iceland could soon deliver a breath of fresh air to millions of Chinese.

Iceland's Arctic Green Energy Corporation and China's Sinopec (SNPMF) have secured a $250 million loan from the Asian Development Bank that will help develop geothermal resources in China.

The loan, which has been granted to a joint venture between the two companies, will be used to expand geothermal heating in cities near Beijing and reduce the area's reliance on coal.

The project could lead to even bigger things.

"We aim to replicate our successful collaboration across Asia," said Liu Shiliang, an executive at an affiliate of state-owned Sinopec.

Geothermal heating works by extracting naturally hot water or steam from below the earth's surface, and pumping it through pipelines to homes and businesses.

Geothermal facilities generate 25% of electricity in Iceland, and provide heat to nine out of 10 homes, according to the country's energy authority.

Iceland is known for having a large number of volcanoes and hot springs. But the companies say there is also significant potential in some areas of northern China.

China's leaders are aggressively seeking to boost clean energy and reduce pollution, especially in major cities.

Iceland geyser
Iceland's geysers provide the country with energy.

Research published by Nanjing University's School of the Environment in 2016 linked air pollution with nearly a third of all recorded deaths in China. Hebei, the province that encircles Beijing, ranked among the worst.

Beijing's most recent five-year economic plan includes a pledge to accelerate the development of geothermal and renewable energy resources in order to reduce pollution.

china pollution
Studies show nearly one in three recorded deaths in China are linked to air pollution.

The International Energy Agency says that 58% of China's energy comes from coal, compared with 12% from renewables.

Related: China is crushing the U.S. in renewable energy

The plan envisions that geothermal energy will replace 50 million tons of coal by 2020. Last year, the government raised the target to 70 million tons, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Beijing has also set a goal for clean energy, such as solar and hydro, to meet 20% of China's energy needs by 2030.

In 2017, China pledged to invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($367 billion) in renewable power generation by 2020.

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