Xu Zhenhua started his career as a founding member of Wuxi’s first thermo power plant in 1982. Thirty years later, he led the work to close it.
“We had mixed feelings to see it shut down. Many colleagues and I spent our best years in the plant. But we knew the plant is a polluter and its closure was for the benefit of the whole city and the environment,” said Xu, general manager of Wuxi Xielian Thermos Heating Co.
The plant, after its closure in 2012, was converted into a heating steam distributor for a thermo power plant in neighboring Suzhou. Both Wuxi and Suzhou are prosperous cities in East China’s Jiangsu Province.
The conversion didn’t come cheap. A pipeline system needed to be built to channel steam from Suzhou to Xielian and then to end-users. A total of 433 million yuan ($69 million) was needed for the project.
“Money was a big headache,” Xu said, adding that his company was able to raise only 173 million yuan ($27 million) from its coffers for the project.
A loan from Huaxia Bank helped solve the problem. The $20 million (126 million yuan) loan is a part of a $400 million loan that the World Bank provided to China for the China Energy Efficiency Financing (CHEEF) Program, implemented between 2008 and 2016. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) also provided $13.5 million in grants to the program.
Under the program, the Bank first provided funds to three Chinese banks—the Export-Import Bank of China, Huaxia Bank, and Minsheng Bank. Combined with about $900 million in counterpart funding, these were then lent to enterprises. The aim was to encourage Chinese commercial banks to finance energy efficiency projects and to improve China’s market-based mechanism and system for such projects.
But for residents around the former thermo plant where Xu worked, the result is more tangible: a big pollution source is gone. “Even the area’s property prices went up after the plant was shut down,” Xu said.
The way Xielian worked with the Suzhou plant is promoted in all of Jiangsu as a model in the province’s push to reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency. The company’s success story has crossed the province’s borders to other parts of the country. Xu said many officials from different provinces and all the five major power companies of China have come to learn from Xilian’s experiences.
Xu, 52, said he felt he had started a new life in his new post.
Before, he spent the bulk of his time doing routine management work, from purchasing coal to every process of power generating. Now he is more involved in research and development to cut the loss of heat in transmission and to help customers to use the steam more wisely.
“I enjoy what I am doing, really,” he said.