BEIJING (Reuters) - China's Ministry for Environmental Protection (MEP) said it had completed coal-to-gas and coal-to-electricity projects for 3.9 million households or 25,220 villages, exceeding a target of 3.1 million houses for 2017 in northern Chinese regions.
The project has left some rural villages in the cold, however, the MEP said late on Sunday, as local officials were unable to finish projects before the winter heating period began on Nov. 15.
As many as 3,704 villages had not completed switching residents from coal stoves to either burning natural gas or to electricity as of Dec. 24. That accounts for 16 percent of the total amount of the project, the MEP data showed. As a result, these villages need to keep burning coal, the MEP said.
China began an ambitious program earlier this year under which millions of households and some industrial users are switching away from coal for heating, as Beijing tries to clean the tainted air in northern China after decades of galloping growth.
But the program has led to widespread shortages of natural gas, sent LNG prices soaring and left some residents freezing in their homes and factories shuttered.
The statement from the MEP was the first acknowledgement from the central government of the consequences of the move.
China's LNG imports hit a monthly record of 4.06 million tonnes in November, customs data showed on Sunday.
(Reporting by Meng Meng and Aizhu Chen; Editing by Hugh Lawson)