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China's economy feels pinch of power shortage
( 2003-12-10 22:13) (Xinhua)

Power shortage has been felt in a number of regions in China this winter, following a similar situation in summer.

"Since early this winter, seven provinces have enforced blackouts in selected areas because their power grid fail to cope with all the demand," said Zhao Zunlian, director of the control center of the State Grid Corporation.

Zhao noted that east China's Zhejiang province was the most hit by the power shortage this winter. "Since late November, Zhejiang has been restricting electricity supply in certain areas to ensure the power grid won't break down. These areas, which normally need over three million kwh of electricity each day, have to learn to cope with blackouts," said Zhao.

The power shortage has affected the lives of ordinary people as well as the production of enterprises.

In Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province, some residents have begun to buy small electricity generators.

More than 10 large department stores in Xiamen, a port city in east China's Fujian province, open only five days a week in accordance with the blackout schedule.

Many enterprises in east China, where power shortage is the most serious, have chosen to arrange their production in off-peak hours. In Zhejiang province, for instance, some enterprises start production after 2:00 a.m. in the early morning.

The State Electric Power Regulatory Commission said China is witnessing the fastest growth in electricity consumption in 25 years.

"Electricity consumption totaled 1,374 billion kwh in the first nine months this year, up 15.58 percent over the same period last year. The growth rate for the whole year is expected to be around 15 percent," said Chen Jinxing, deputy general manager of the State Grid Corporation.

The China Electricity Council, an association of enterprises in the power sector, predicted power shortage in China would exceed 10 million kwh in 2003 despite the growth in total power generating capacity.

The State Electric Power Regulatory Commission attributed the situation to a number of factors, which include:

-- Owing to dry spells that plagued China this year, water level is especially low this winter and hydroelectric plants are unable to operate to their full capacity;

-- Many thermal power plants, which constitute the bulk of China's power supply, are operating below their capacity due to inadequate coal supply;

-- Use of electricity in heating systems rose dramatically this winter; and

-- Energy-intensive industries, including production of steel and nonferrous metals have been growing fast.

The State Grid Corporation forecast China's electricity consumption would grow to 2,091 billion kwh in 2004, up some 207 billion kwh over 2003. The power shortage would worsen and more areas would experience blackouts.

While calling on enterprises to devise new ways to cope with power shortage, like avoiding peak hours of power consumption, the government has decided to accelerate construction of new power projects.

"In line with the new market situation, the government revised targets of the power industry in the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005). The year 2003 witnessed the construction of projects with a designed capacity of 29.91 million kw and the arrival of 29 million kw of new generating capacity," said Hao Weiping, an official of the State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) in charge of electric power affairs.

Feng Fei, a noted researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that addressing the power shortage required efforts from both within and outside the power sector.

"The power shortage this year has reminded us of the urgency to speed up the adjustment of the industrial structure, promote energy conservation and sustainable social and economic growth," said Feng.

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