China's Blast of Cold Weather Prompts Power Rationing

BEIJING, Jan. 7 (UPI) — Some provinces in east and central China have resorted to power rationing amid increased demand due to record cold temperatures.

Coal transport has been hampered by heavy snow.

Beijing recorded its coldest day in 29 years Tuesday, with temperatures dropping to 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and the heaviest snowfall in 60 years over the weekend.

While power rationing had been limited to industrial users, power company officials Wednesday said residential areas would not be affected.

“Even under extreme circumstances, we will ensure residential electricity supply, which is always the top priority,” said Wang Changxing, spokesperson for the Shanghai grid, a major branch of the East China grid, China Daily reports.

In Hubei, one of the worst hit areas, power cuts have been imposed on “several thousand” energy-intensive companies such as those in the metallurgy and steel sectors, said a spokesperson for Hubei Electric Power Co.

Wuhan, capital of Hubei, experienced brownouts in some districts after the thermal power generating system broke down in a local power plant because of overloading.

Shanghai Grid said that power in Shanghai would not be switched off or rationed within the next couple of days, China Daily said.

Coal-based thermal power plants generate about 90 percent of China’s energy supply.

The country’s overall electricity consumption rose nearly 6 percent in 2009 to 3,643 billion kilowatt-hours, the National Energy Administration said Wednesday.

By year-end 2009, coal stockpiles in the Central China grid network were sufficient for only 10 days, less than the recommended 15 days, according to official data, China Daily reports.

Zhuang Jian, senior economist at the Asian Development Bank in China, said increasing power generation facilities, as result of the country’s $586 billion stimulus package initiated in late 2008, would gradually help make up for the shortage.

Zhuang said part of the reason for the current shortage was power and coal companies haggling over prices. “They must be made more market-oriented to resolve differences over prices,” he said.

In early 2008, 7 percent of China’s coal-fired power generation capacity was shut because severe snowstorms disrupted transportation of the fuel, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Dai Yande, deputy director of the Energy Research Institute under the National Development and Reform Commission, urged that a contingency plan be put in place to respond to such weather-triggered power shortages.

Weather forecasters are predicting yet another cold front, with snow likely in Beijing on Friday and on Thursday for the Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan and Hubei provinces.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

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