BEIJING - With the extremely cold weather that has swept most parts of China over the past week, soaring demand for heat has led to coal shortages and power cuts in many of the country's provinces.
Central China's Hubei and Henan provinces, along with Northwest China's Shaanxi province, have seen the consumption of coal rise steeply following the cold snap, which has been accompanied by heavy rain and snow in places, China National Radio (CNR) reported on Sunday.
In Hubei, 14 power stations had a total of 1.8 million tons of coal last week, compared to 3.7 million tons in September, the report said, adding that there is only enough coal left to meet another 12 days of the current demand for heat.
Similar shortages have been reported in coal-rich provinces, such as Henan, which currently has 2.5 million tons of coal, though it needs another 1 million tons to meet winter demand.
The shortage of coal has already caused power cuts and energy rationing in parts of the province, the report said.
Meanwhile, in the coal-rich province of Shaanxi 14 major power stations reported on Thursday they only had enough coal to meet another 4.4 days of demand, according to statistics from the provincial branch of the electric power company that operates under the State Grid, China's major power operator.
Many enterprises and residential communities in the province were notified of impending power cuts and the need for energy rationing, the report said.
At a residential estate in Xi'an, capital city of Shaanxi, residents were informed that power cuts could take place daily from 8 am to 11 pm from Dec 16 to 29, according to local media reports.
The shortage is expected to ease up temporarily after the National Meteorological Center on Sunday forecast a rise in temperatures across China over the next few days, though experts warned there could be a severe power shortage problem this winter.
While power shortages have been a recurring problem in recent years, the situation this winter is particularly serious, they said.
Han Xiaoping, chief information officer of the domestic energy portal China5e.com, said that while the country had expended great effort in developing power stations over recent years, shortages have remained in some places due to problems in transporting the coal.
"Even though the price of coal has increased in recent years, the price of power has remained unchanged, which has led some power companies to reduce the available power supply, because they do not earn any money by generating electricity," CNR quoted Han as having said.
Bao Yunqiao, vice-president of the China Energy Research Society, said power cuts are taking place also because local governments are under pressure to meet targets to save energy and reduce emissions, as set out in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010).
Mayors and officials of State-owned enterprises will be removed from their posts if the targets are not met, according to relevant regulations.
As the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan draws to a close, local officials are doing everything they can to meet the central government's targets, Bao said on Sunday.