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Shedding light on blackout's cause
( 2003-09-18 09:04) (China Daily)

China is studying the massive blackouts that swept the United States and Canada last month, trying to prevent a similar power crisis.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have urged power suppliers to learn from the power outage, and establish an emergency system as soon as possible to ensure a stable power supply.

Industry officials said yesterday at an international seminar that they would not rule out the possibility of a power supply disaster if no pre-emptive measures are taken.

"Given that China's technology and the grid network are far inferior to that of the United States, no one can assure that the power outage will never happen in China," said Shao Binren, vice-chairman of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, the industry watchdog, on the sideline of the International Conference on Electricity Regulation in China.

Last month rolling blackouts hit the United States and Canada, affecting thousands of businesses and more than 50 million people.

Shao attributed North America's biggest power failure largely to its scattered grid management system, which hinders the prompt repair actions, as well as insufficient grid construction.

"One of the lessons we learned is that we should reinforce the supervision on the system to keep uniform control over transmission and distribution," said Shao. "Another lesson is that we should speed up the construction and updating of our grids."

Yang Fuqiang, vice-president of the Energy Foundation, agreed with Shao that China should stay alert on the system breakdown.

Although China has much more consolidated management on power transmission and distribution than the United States, the nation's grids are too fragile to sustain any large disturbances.

"We would like to err on the side of caution," said Yang.

Still, the risks are mounting, experts warned.

The government stripped the power plants from the State Grid Corp, at that time running a power monopoly, in a market reform last December, in an attempt to improve the efficiency of the industry. The separation has weakened control of the grid companies over the system, experts said.

Experts and officials yesterday urged establishing a clear-cut supervision framework as soon as possible to better manage the system to fend off risks.

At yesterday's seminar, officials said they are also proceeding with the market reform.

Wu Guihui, deputy director of the Energy Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission, said amendments to the Electricity Law are expected to be completed this year.

The amendments aims to better regulate the power construction, operation, market entry, power trading, investment and finance, market supervision and pricing.


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