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Power cuts to cast shadow over summer
By Fu Jin (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-12 22:36

Economic hubs in East and South China face summer blackouts because of the continuing power shortage, energy watchdogs warned yesterday.

Works fix power transmission facilities in Quanzhou, Southeast China's Fujian Province May 12, 2005. [newsphoto]

But the situation is expected to be less severe than last year, they said.

Vice-Chairman of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission Shi Yubo said the industrial belts of the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta will suffer most.

"Blackouts will definitely take place starting from June," he said.

The gloomy news came as the government announced that nuclear and hydro-power will top China's new electricity development agenda in the coming years due to environmental considerations.

However, this will not prevent another summer of disruption.

"Due to the inadequate energy supply, the rest of the country will see various levels of power shortages, with Northeast China being exception," added Shi at a news conference by the State Council Information Office.

Though the capital Beijing will face a shortage of 700 megawatts, Shi promised blackouts will not be enforced as the city's power companies will go all out to buy electricity from other power grids.

"Electricity will remain in short supply nationwide, although the shortage of power will be less acute compared with last year," Shi reiterated.

The maximum shortage of power supply during the coming summer peak-period is estimated at around 25 million kilowatts, according to the commission.

Businesses and institutes are busy preparing for possible blackouts.

"My institute has prepared a diesel power generator," said Zhu Fahua, deputy president of the State Power Environmental Protection Research Institute. Based in Nanjing, provincial capital of Jiangsu, Zhu's institute is affiliated with China's major power supplier the State Power Corporation.

Statistics show that since the beginning of this year, China's electricity generation and consumption have continued to outstrip supplies.

From January to March, total power consumption nationwide was 550 billion kilowatt-hours, an increase of 13.38 per cent over the same period of last year.

New power policy

Shi said the central government has already hammered out a new environment-friendly electricity development plan, giving priorities to hydropower stations and nuclear power plants.

"But it does not mean that we'll ignore coal-fired power," said Shi.

Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar with Tsinghua University, said the government has put environmental concern in the policy change but needed to carefully consider "new environmental threats."

"The ecological subsequences brought by dams and the recycling of nuclear waste should be environmental problems worthy of great concern," Zhang told China Daily.

But he predicted that China's power supply will be based on coal for a long time to come, despite the great harm sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from coal burning can produce, including acid rain.

Currently, the power industry is the largest coal consumer as well as the largest air polluter in China, sucking up 74 per cent of the total power supply.

Shi also said the government is encouraging power companies to explore new energy sources, such as wind, solar and renewable energy.

(China Daily 05/13/2005 page1)

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