Power Crunch Deepens as Heatwave Bakes China
Power shortages this summer should be "much more serious" than last year -- when China faced its worst energy crunch in two decades -- a source from the State Electricity Dispatching Centre were quoted as saying.
"Many experts attribute the power shortage to the skyrocketing economy, especially high-power-consuming industries," Xinhua said in an overnight report.
China's unbalanced energy structure was also to blame, because excessive reliance on thermal power meant coal shortages could "immediately lead to a terrible power generation breakdown", Xinhua said.
China has poured billions of dollars into expanding its power transmission and generation capacity, but the national power system is forecast to struggle to meet demand until 2006-2007.
Generators nationwide are expected to crank out 25 to 30 gigawatts less power than consumers want to use this summer with no end to the crippling heatwave in sight.
Temperatures were expected to stay above 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) across most of China over the next few days, especially in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai, which saw its hottest day in 70 years on Sunday when the mercury hit 39 C (102 F), Xinhua said.
The heat had forced the suspension of construction projects in many cities and caused water shortages, fires and traffic accidents, it said.
On Monday, almost 100 people in Shanghai were poisoned when toxic ammonia burst from a steel container that exploded after baking for hours under the sun, the China Daily said.
"The local production safety bureau came to the conclusion the blast was caused by the high temperature making the substance expand," the newspaper said.
Power consumption in Shanghai had set three records in a week and the local grid was already stretched to capacity, Xinhua said.
Premier Wen Jiabao has called on government officials to set an example by setting air-conditioners at 26 C or above and abandoning Western-style suits at meetings. Many cities have limited power use by big consumers and told factories to shut down or introduce night shifts to cut electricity demand.
"The power limitation policies apparently affect the economic results of many industries," Xinhua said without elaborating.
China was rushing to expand and guarantee power supplies and had urged local governments to set different electricity prices for different times of day, Xinhua said.
Beijing would also reform the market for coal for electricity generation use to "solve the contradiction between the soaring power consumption and insufficient coal supply", Zhao Yuzhu, deputy head of the State Electricity Dispatching and Telecommunication Centre, was quoted as saying.
The heatwave had also taken a toll on agriculture, extending a drought in parts of eastern, western and central China, Xinhua said.
"Farmers have had to postpone the time for the autumn sowing, which should be done after the summer harvesting. They are worried about missing the right season," it said.