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China scrambles to tackle ‘unexpected, unprecedented’ electricity shortage

The escalating power outages in China, which began in factories, are worrying authorities ahead of winter when demand peaks as provinces switch on central heating
Electricity pylons and power lines are pictured at a power station near Yumen, Gansu province, China. An acute electricity shortage has rocked the country. (REUTERS)
Published on Sep 28, 2021 04:52 PM IST
By Sutirtho Patranobis

China is scrambling to counter a widening power shortage in the northeast of the country as electricity outages have led to rationing of power at homes, shut down factories and malls, and hit manufacturing.

The outages, which began in factories, are worrying authorities ahead of winter when demand peaks as provinces switch on central heating.

Shortage of coal supply coupled with rising prices and tougher emission standards are said to be the primary reasons behind the power crunch.

Chinese state media reported that rationing of power in households in northeast China has sparked public anger and debates on social media about the country’s power supply and whether authorities are ready to face the sharp increase in demand during the long and harsh winter.

The worst-hit provinces are Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning in northeast China, which have experienced “unexpected and unprecedented” power cuts, state media reported.

Temperatures in the north and northeast of China have already begun to register sharp drops, reports said.


The power crisis in the three provinces in northeast China made it to Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform, drawing around 500 million viewers and over 230,000 comments, the tabloid Global Times reported on Tuesday.

Power rationing during peak hours was ordered in many parts of northeast China since late last week, including in cities such as Shenyang and Changchun after the region’s entire power grid was in danger of collapse.

“The power-supply shock in the world’s second biggest economy and biggest manufacturer will ripple through and impact global markets,” Reuters quoted analysts from the global financial services group, Nomura, as saying in a September 24 note, warning that global supplies of textiles, toys and machine parts could be affected.

State Grid Corporation of China, a major operator of electricity networks, has pledged to ensure that basic electricity demand for daily consumption is met and power cuts are avoided, the Global Times report said.

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