Coal use for residential heating: Patterns, health implications and lessons learned

Aiymgul Kerimray, Luis Rojas-Solórzano, Mehdi Amouei Torkmahalleh, Philip K. Hopke, Brian P. Ó Gallachóir

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Residential coal consumption has decreased significantly since 1990 in most developed and developing countries, due to fuel switching. However, there are still countries with a high proportion of households using coal for heating purposes, in some cases with increasing coal consumption trends. This review discusses the patterns of the coal use, associated emissions, the negative impacts on health, and the policies and interventions used to limit the negative effects of high residential coal use. The patterns of residential coal use in those selected countries that account for 86% of global residential coal consumption are reviewed. Interventions in these selected countries have been accessed. It appears that the World Health Organization (WHO) may substantially underestimate the health impacts in these countries, particularly with respect to the burden of disease from household air pollution from using solid fuel for cooking as the indicator of exposure. The alternative to the WHO approach uses International Energy Agency (IEA) data because it provides the energy consumption for each country by fuel type and all household end-uses in a consistent framework. National survey data on energy and emissions also provides better metrics of exposure. Most of the assessed studies in developed countries focused on ambient air pollution, while in developing countries indoor air pollution was given primary attention (except for Mongolia). The PM concentrations within households using coal in Ireland, Mongolia, and China were compared and substantial differences were found as a result of differences in ventilation, stove design, fuel quality and stove maintenance and operation. Policy measures such as the large stove switching programs in China and Mongolia were mostly successful, but did not fully reach desired targets because of several factors. One of these key factors was the variability of human behavior and its response to the policy stimuli. Important barriers to the transition to cleaner energy alternatives are relatively low coal prices coupled with its level of supply security. Health benefits, however, are generally higher than the abatement costs in the most polluted areas, and support from governments for cleaner energy, that includes a focus on health, can be feasible and effective if carefully designed and targeted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Coal
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Policy
  • Residential heating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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