China's power load hit a five-year record this year, as demand for electricity surged in the summer, said the State Grid Corp (SGC) on Monday.
Last weekend, power consumption in Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu province, Zhejiang province, and some other eastern regions touched a record high. Beijing power grid alone, reported a peak 12.03 million kw at 2:38 p.m. on July 4, its highest in history.
According to the SGC monthly report, the SGC's power plants nationwide generated a total of 10.98 billion kwh on July 4, 10.66 billion kwh on July 5, and 10.48 billion kwh on July 6.
The SGC's 541 power plants had a total power coal reserve of 34.64 million tonnes by July 6. These reserves could ensure a normal power supply for 11 or 12 days, said an unnamed expert with the SGC.
Coal reserves in 181 of the SGC's 541 generating plants were below the seven-day alarm level, and 64 of them were below the three-day level, affecting a capacity of 142 million kilowatts.
A total of 58 generating sets in the country's northern and eastern areas temporally halted operation, because of the shortage of power station coal.
Despite the shortage of power station coal in some regions, the expert said "it is within normal levels."
The Ministry of Railways earlier urged railway departments at all levels to ensure power station coal transportation. Beijing, Tianjin, Hunan, Hubei, and Anhui were the priority areas.
Despite surging power demand, an increase in power station coal prices will have a detrimental effect on power supply, as it will add tens of millions of yuan to the operating costs of domestic power plants, and discourage them from further production, said market analysts.
Pressures on the power station coal price, which is a substitute for oil in some industries, saw its price surging along with rising oil prices on the international market. However, the Chinese government's move of raising the nationwide average sales price of electricity by 0.025 yuan/kwh (kilowatt-hours) from July 1 was found to be of little benefit to power enterprises.
Coke prices in most domestic markets rose by 300 yuan ($43) per tonne in June. The price adjustment put the coke price in Shanxi, the main coal producer, at 2,680 yuan per tonne.
Little rainfall and high temperatures in most of the regions would add to the power load, according to the weather department.
Yu Yanshan, deputy head of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) general office, said earlier in June that China was expecting a maximum daily power shortage of 10 million kw this summer.
Some of the plants and residential regions in Guangdong and Yunnan were expected to suffer temporary blackouts.
Minister in charge of the National Development and Reform Commission Zhang Ping said last month that local governments should enhance power coal production, and improve small-scale coal mines, in a bid to increase coal output.