Chinese switch to flashlights, generators amid power cuts

The power crunch is cutting down production, driving industrial production costs and disrupting the global supply in the world’s second largest economy
China Energy coal-fired power plant is pictured in Shenyang, Liaoning province. China’s planning body has said it will make the public’s basic power needs the top priority of its power-supply network. (REUTERS)
China Energy coal-fired power plant is pictured in Shenyang, Liaoning province. China’s planning body has said it will make the public’s basic power needs the top priority of its power-supply network. (REUTERS)
Updated on Sep 30, 2021 07:37 AM IST
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By Sutirtho Patranobis

China’s state planner on Wednesday ordered railway companies and provincial authorities to rush coal supplies to regions grappling with unprecedented power cuts, which have hit industrial production and forced residents to switch on mobile phones and light candles to go about their daily chores.

Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning are the three worst hit provinces in northeast China facing sudden power blackouts, lasting for hours.The crippling power pinch has also spread to several other provinces, local media reported.

“In the central province of Hunan, some building facade lighting and billboards are being turned off during peak hours. In the southern trade hub of Guangdong, some factories have been ordered to shut down for up to a week,” news website Caixin reported.

Power shortage in industrial hubs in China is not rare but the ongoing crunch has also hit millions of households.

“People ate breakfast by flashlight and shopkeepers used portable generators Wednesday as power cuts imposed to meet official conservation goals disrupted manufacturing and daily life,” the Associated Press said in a report from Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province in northeast China.

The power cuts are being attributed to continuing shortage of coal, rising coal prices and efforts made by local governments to curtail industrial energy use and meet carbon reduction targets.

“The industrial demand for electricity is increasing fast. The price of coal has soared. And local governments are trying to fulfil their emissions cut quotas,” a state media report said.

“A key factor behind the rapid growth of electricity consumption in China is the post-pandemic economic recovery,” the Caixin report said.

In turn, the crunch is cutting down production, driving industrial production costs and disrupting the global supply in the world’s second largest economy.

Many Chinese factories have cut output or have halted production entirely with industry insiders telling state media that the situation could worsen as the winter season draws near.

“A textile factory based in East China’s Jiangsu Province received a notice from local authorities about power cuts on September 21. It won’t have power again until October 7 or even later,” the state-run Global Times reported earlier this week.

The Chinese government is stepping in with the National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top planner, saying the needs of the people will be prioritised.

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China will make the public’s basic power needs the top priority of its power-supply network, ensuring that households stay safe and warm throughout this winter, the NDRC said.

The commission added that comprehensive measures will be taken to increase the supply and adjust demand.

“Each railway company should strengthen coal transportation to power houses (utilities) with an inventory of less than seven days and launch the emergency supply mechanism in a timely manner,” said the NDRC.

In a bid to increase power generation and efficiently control the cost amid soaring commodity prices, the NDRC said that it will increase coal and natural gas imports and domestic production, and also promote the signing of medium- to long-term supply contracts for thermal coal.

The NDRC added that it would let electricity rates reflect supply and demand, and to increase coal imports in an orderly manner to meet heating and power generation demand.

The planning body added that it would increase domestic natural gas production and guide companies to arrange spot imports of liquefied natural gas at an early date.

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Thursday, October 28, 2021