First appeared in

Asian Development Bank

100 Climate Actions from Cities in Asia and the Pacific


A new distributed heating project in Changsha uses river water as an energy source, cutting down on both operating costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Two smart energy centers in the most populous city of Hunan Province will adopt river water source heat pump (RWSHP) technology, which will use water from the Xiangjiang River as an energy source for central heating.


These systems take advantage of temperature differences between the river and ambient air in both summer and winter; they will extract water as a cooling mechanism for air conditioning systems in the summer, and extract heat energy to transfer to building heating in the winter.

The energy centers, located in the new districts of Binjiang and Xiangjiang, will allow communities within a 2 kilometer radius to connect to the heating system. Overall, around 320,000 square meters of commercial and residential buildings will be serviced by this sustainable energy system.

Compared to traditional systems, RWSHP technology will result in energy savings of around 20% in the summer and 40% in the winter. This will save the equivalent of 5,064 tons of standard coal and reduce CO2 emissions by 12,622 tons per year in each energy center.

Changsha has more than 700 residential and 50 commercial users connected to regional central heating services (photo by Changsha Ecological Environment Bureau).

The Challenge

Presently, most of Hunan’s central heating system relies on traditional heating mechanisms, including electricity and gas boilers, which release greater amounts of greenhouse gases than cleaner alternatives.


Economic The project will reduce operating costs by 40-50%, resulting in significant energy cost savings for both residential and commercial buildings.

Environment The water source heat pump energy system results in no pollution, smoke, waste water, or exhaust gas, which will improve local environmental conditions when compared to traditional heating.

Social The central heating system will feature 24-hour uninterrupted service, supplying residents with a cost-effective and reliable heating source.