Rural clean heating project (RCHP) in China aims to increase flexibility in the rural energy system, enhance the integration of renewable energy and distributed generation, and reduce environmental impact. While RCHP-enabling routes have been studied from a technical perspective, the economic, ecological, regulatory, and policy dimensions of RCHP are yet to be analysed in depth, especially in the underdeveloped areas in China. This paper discusses RCHP in rural Gansu using a multi-dimensional approach. We first focus on the current issues and challenges of RCHP in rural Gansu. Then the RCHP-enabling areas are briefly zoned into six typical regions based on the resource distribution in Gansu Province, and a matching framework of RCHP is recommended. Then we focus on the economics and sustainability of RCHP-enabling technologies. Based on the medium-term assessment of RCHP in the demonstration provinces, various technical schemes and routes are analysed and compared in order to determine which should be adopted in rural Gansu. In addition to technical and economic effects of those schemes, the corresponding ecology, policy, finance, and market implications are also concerned. We briefly discuss how the national regulators incentivise the implementation of RCHP in rural Gansu. Major barriers to RCHP are identified as the sustainability of technology, economy, ecology, policy, finance, and market. Subsequently, some policy solutions to overcome these barriers are proposed.
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