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Power shortages may ease
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-02-20 00:10

Electricity shortages are likely to ease this year with the government busily constructing power plants across the nation.

But that won't mean there won't be occasional shutoffs and brownouts, or school children being forced to do their homework by candlelight.

Cao Yushu, National Development and Reform Commission spokesman, said yesterday in Beijing the better prospects are based on dozens of new electricity generators with a total capacity of up to 37 million kilowatts going into production by the end of this year.

Nonetheless, electricity providers are forecasting that some factories will be forced to suspend production and homes in some regions will be without television or computers for entertainment.

That means some school kids will have good excuses when they tell their teachers their homework is undone because their weren't candles at home.

The problem is simple: an inability of the nation's power grid to meet ever-increasing power demands with China's remarkably growing economy.

"Generally speaking, the situation will be difficult this year," said Chen Jin, deputy general manager of the State Grid said.

Electricity shortages, which first started being felt in June 2002, peaked last summer as the country's power consumption steadily increased by an average of 15 per cent a month. Restrictions on electricity use were then launched in 21 provinces and autonomous regions, resulting in negative impacts on the local economy and people's lives.

The National Federation of Electricity Enterprises said in a report this year, newly increased electricity capacity will reach 35 million kilowatts, lower than Cao's prediction of 37 million kilowatts.

Meanwhile, the electricity demand will soar up to 2.11 trillion kilowatts, increasing 12 per cent compared with 1.89 trillion kilowatts during 2003.

"The shortage is likely to be slightly lessened in 2005," the federation said in the recent report.

Cao called for greater efforts to improve power production and distribution, build more power plants and grids, and smooth the pricing mechanism, so as to meet power demands.

The government has made great efforts to increase power supply by issuing a series of policies and measures.

By the end of 2003, the government already had plans approved for 26 soon-to-be constructed power generators with a total capacity of up to 11.37 million kilowatts. A total of 92 projects, reaching a capacity of 83.91 million kilowatts are outlined in a feasibility study.

In 2005, a group of generators with capacity of up to 40 million kilowatts will be producing power, Cao said.

Zhang Jianyu, a visiting scholar with Tsinghua University urged more efforts in pricing reforms for power and coal, major raw materials of electricity.

"To construct more power generators does not nail down all problem," said Zhang.

Currently, electricity prices are regulated by the government, but coal prices are decided by market force.

"The government should have integrated solutions for price reforms," said Zhang. "Otherwise, I'm afraid that power plants cannot work because of coal supply shortages caused by higher prices," said Zhang.

Cao urged coal production companies and railway authorities to ensure transportation of coal for thermal power plants, the main producers of electricity in the country.

Power supplies for residential use should be given top priority, while efforts should be made to restrict industries that are consuming too much electricity, said Cao.

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