Officially speaking, Beijing's winter usually starts on November 15 every
Mother Nature is not behind this miracle of scheduling. Rather, this is the
date that the municipal utility authority is scheduled to start providing heat
to all residential quarters.
This year, though, the calendar has changed. Beijing Heating Group (BJHG),
the central municipal heating provider, turned on the heat to residential homes
on a trial basis on November 7.
A BJHG spokesperson told the press on Monday that, with the exception of a
few areas where emergency repair work was still to be done and should be
completed soon, the company was ready for the coming winter.
On the morning of November 13, the Beijing-based Legal Evening News reported
that roughly 1 million households in the city were connected to the heating
system. The temperature in 80 per cent of those homes was no lower than 16 C.
Yesterday morning a roadside bicycle repairman told China Daily: "The heating
has been on for a few days in my home (in a nearby apartment building). It's
warm enough. I'm getting what I deserve for the 800 yuan (US$101) heating fee I
Every residence pays a fee to receive heat in the winter. The fee is based on
the household's size in square metres.
In Yizhuang, a satellite town of Beijing that is part of the BDA (for Beijing
Development Area), owners of private villas with close to 400 square metres of
floor space, the most luxurious class of home in Beijing, must pay a 5,000-yuan
(US$634) heating fee.
BJHG has been using increasingly more natural gas over last few years, due to
the city's rapid expansion, according to company sources. In 2005, demand for
heat in Beijing increased by an equivalent of 3 million square metres of floor
space. The figure for this year is not yet available. A typical residence
measures about 100 square metres.
Nationwide, the winter heating system has been the target of much criticism.
Complaints have ranged from residences being too hot in the autumn to too cold
on the coldest days. Some have said the system is too wasteful, too rigid in
pricing and too slow in collecting fees.
As in many other areas, there have been calls for efforts to reform the