Country Report - China

Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2021

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

By the end of 2020, there was 27.04 million square meters of solar thermal products installed, a 5.2% decrease from 2019.

In 2020, vacuum tube products installed totaled 20.08 million square meters, 8.6down from 2019Flat-plate collectors and systems installed totaled 6.95 million square meters, a 6% increase from  2019.

Typical Applications and Products

Vacuum tube solar collectors represent 74.3% of the total market and flat plate collectors about 25.7%. 

In 2020, the solar thermal application took 74.3% of total market shares, while the product retail market took the 25.7%.

In the solar thermal application market, 95.6% are domestic hot water applications, 4.4% are space heating and process heating applications. 




Main Market Drivers

Millions of rural residents without centralized heating systems are converting to clean heating systems, there are two main market drivers, on the one hand, government provides subsidy for clean heating systems, such as heat pumps, solar heating and electrical heaters with storage unit. On the other hand, using solar water heaters can save the conventional fuel fee.

In the urban market, the main driver is local regulation or national regulation. To help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Chinese government published a series of regulations to increase the proportion of renewable energy for all energy consumption, which includes the promotion of solar thermal applications. 


Most solar manufactures are located in eastern China.  Fifty percent of the manufacturers are centralized in 3 provinces: Zhejiang, Shandong and Jiangsu. In 2014, the annual amount of exports was near USD 300 million. The most general mode of product sales is three-tiered: the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer. For some compact products, such as solar water heaters, the installation is the responsibility of  the seller, and for the large construction projects, the manufacturers have specific departments in charge of the installation work.

In the first half of 2019, exports of solar thermal products from China totaled 1.15 million square meters, imports of solar thermal products to China were 29,000 square meters.


In the year of 2020, about 3 million people were newly engaged in the solar thermal industry, most of them worked in the field of solar water heating.



A typical compact solar water heater (generally with 2 m2 collectors and a 150l tank) is about 3,000 to 5,000 RMB Yuan, including the installation charge. For a solar hot water system, the cost is about 1,500 to 2,500 RMB Yuan per square meter collector. For a solar space heating system, the cost is about 3,000 to 5,000 RMB Yuan per square meter collector.

Other Key Topics

Solar district heating is becoming a new area of development for solar thermal systems in China. Over 10,000 square meters of collector area has been built. Besides district heating system, solar combisystem for single-family houses is a new trend in China.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


The passive house is the most common solar energy building, especially in the rural areas of northern China. This type of house appeals to many people because of the large southern windows and the possibility for an attached sunspace.  Due to the promotion of  "nearly/net zero energy building" (NZEB), daylighting, solar heating and cooling are becoming new focus areas.

Market Size and Trends

The new building area in China will continue to increase in the coming years. The existing building area is over 40 billion m2, where more than 2 billion m2 of buildings need energy-saving renovation. There is an enormous building market in China. Passive houses and solar plus buildings are encouraged in China.

Main Market Drivers

The main market drivers are the policies for reducing building energy consumption and renewable energy application.

The Chinese government plans to build more than 2 billion square meters of solar thermal buildings by the end of 2020. 


There is no separate information on solar buildings.


According to the construction experiences, a well insulated passive house with attached sunspace costs about 40,000 RMB Yuan more than the common residential building in rural areas of northern China. 

Other Key Topics


R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

China has a series of science and technology programs, such as a national five-year plan, National High-Tech R&D Program (863 Program), National Key Technologies R&D Program, etc.  Most of these include solar energy research, and some include solar thermal technology research.

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
China Academy of Building Research Research institution Solar thermal system, low energy buildings yes
China Renewable Energy Society (CRES) non-profit juridical association Solar Thermal Solar Energy Building not yet
China National Renewable Energy Centre public solar energy yes

Actual Innovations

China is working hard on the research of solar cooling systems.  CABR built a nearly zero energy office building in 2014 and the solar heating and cooling system contributes about 50% of the heating and cooling energy. 


Support Framework


China has a medium-term and long-term plan for renewable energy application, by 2060 China will be Carbon Neutral. Currrently, it is the beginning of the 14th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development.

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

At the national level, the Ministry of Science of Technology is responsible for all national S&T programme, and the local S&T commission is responsible for a sub-program at the local level.

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

In 2006, China issued the Law of Renewable Energy of the People’s Republic of China. The government will strongly support the application and the development of solar water heating systems:

  • For national S&T programme, MOST (Ministry of Science and Technology) and MOF (Ministry of Finance) will offer the financial support to the responsible organization, and each research project may get millions RMB Yuan.

  • From 2009 to 2011, a total of 72 cities and 146 counties passed the national selection and became demonstration cities, each of them can receive 50 million to 80 million RMB subsidies.

  • According to the standard, testing, energy label, and energy efficiency subsidy system, China central government will give 5 billion RMB Yuan (0.8 billion USD) to users who buy DSWHs labeled with 1 or 2 grade within one year (before 31th, May 2013).

  • Some local regulations stipulate the new building must apply the solar energy to provide domestic hot water.

In 2017, Chinese government pushed clean heating in northern China, encouraging the use of clean energy, including solar thermal, instead of coal for space heating. The central government will give the first 12 demonstration cities an annual clean heating subsidy of 300 to 500 million yuan for 3 years.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

  • China Renewable Energy Society (CRES)
    CRES is a professional society, composed of professionals working in the field of renewable energy science and technologies in China. CRES is a registered non-profit juridical association; it is a component part of China Association for Science and Technology. CRES has some professional committees, including:

    - Solar Photovoltaic Committee
    - Wind Energy Committee
    - Biomass Energy Committee
    - Solar Thermal Conversion Committee
    - Solar Chemistry Committee
    - Hydrogen Committee
    - Ocean Energy Committee
    - Solar Energy Building Committee
    - Natural Gas Hydrate Committee
  • China National Renewable Energy Centre (CNREC) 
    CNREC is the national institution for assisting China’s energy authorities in renewable energy (RE) policy research, and industrial management and coordination. CNREC will research RE development strategy, planning, policy and regulation; coordinate, regulate and implement industrial standardisation; keep track of the development trend for RE industry and technology; push the establishment and improvement of the system for RE technology and product testing and certificating; implement, monitor and assess national pilot projects; manage and coordinate international and regional cooperation, etc.

National Associations on Green/Solar/Sustainable Buildings

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings