Provinces to face winter power shortages

Updated: 2011-09-08 11:18


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BEIJING - Some Chinese provinces will face a power crunch in the winter even though electricity demand growth will be curbed by an energy-efficiency drive, an official with the China Electricity Council (CEC) said on Sept 7.

A spring power shortage had many worried that China would be hit by even worst power woes in summer when demand peaks. The summer shortfalls, however, were less than feared, thanks to power price hikes, favourable weather and moderating economic activity.

"A power shortage in the upcoming winter could be as severe as what we experienced in January this year, unless there is a miraculous recovery in hydropower later this month," Xue Jing, director of the statistics and information department under the CEC, told reporters on the sidelines of the IHS-McCloskey conference in Beijing.

Hydropower-rich southwestern Chinese provinces and regions, including Guizhou, Guangxi and Yunnan, have been hit badly by droughts and poor hydro generation since early this year. Electricity supplies to many local industries as well as to the country's export hub of Guangdong have been reduced.

Still, industry participants remain mixed about China's coal import demand during the winter months, with some cautious buyers warning that slower economic growth and increased domestic transport capacity would alleviate the power shortage.

Coal is the source for almost 80 percent of China's electricity generation.

Xue said a forecast production slowdown in the steel sector, consolidation in the ferrous metals sector and another round of an energy-saving drive could combine to limit demand growth in the fourth quarter. She did not provide any numerical estimate.

China's overall power consumption gained 11.8 percent from a year earlier in July and increased 12.2 percent in the first seven months, data from the National Energy Administration showed.

Xue said China's power generation would rise 10.5 percent in 2012, compared with a forecast 11.5 percent in 2011.

Infrastructure constraints and lack of installed power capacity will continue to strain power supplies in some regions, she said, without giving any specifics.

The State Grid Corp of China, the country's dominant power distributor, has forecast expanding power shortages in the coming years in eastern provinces such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong due to limited new power generation and environmental capacity, advancing its calls for more long-distance ultra-high voltage power lines to ship power from inland to the coast.