Electricity supplies in China have largely stabilised after the recent power crunch but winter will still be a challenge and localised shortages are still a possibility, the state electric corporation has warned.
It said high power consumption, the demand for heating in the north with the onset of winter and a shortage of water for hydropower production were among the challenges it faced.
“During this winter and spring next year, there will be ‘tight overall balancing and regional shortages’ in the grid, and the grand challenge to supply electricity will continue,” the State Grid Corporation said in a statement.
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The country is currently facing its worst power crunch in decades after the electricity supply was hit by coal shortages and aggressive energy consumption curbs to meet emissions targets.
These shortages also pushed up the price of coal, but because power companies are only allowed to pass some of the costs on to consumers, they resorted to cutting their output to remain profitable.
Since August, at least 20 out of the country’s 31 provinces have introduced power rationing to maintain supplies.
China’s economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, has met coal producers to limit prices to 1,200 yuan (US$188) a tonne for winter and allowed businesses and industries to buy electricity at market prices. It also launched a nationwide crackdown on coal hoarding and speculation.
The State Grid Corporation said there was currently no need to place restrictions on electricity use except for temporary curbs on some highly polluting and energy-intensive industries.
“As of now, electricity supply and demand in areas where the State Grid Corporation operates has returned to normal,” the company said.
The recent power crunch has led to blackouts in at least 20 provinces, with entire streets going dark without notice. Residents in some parts of the country have also complained that the local authorities did not give them priority over industries when it came to maintaining supplies.
The unusually early snowfall in the north of China this year could further hit electricity supplies, the China Meteorological Administration has warned.
As a result of the cold weather, some local governments in the north of the country have started to turn on the central heating in residential and commercial premises 10 to 15 days ahead of schedule, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The State Grid Corporation said it would ensure that citizens, public services and “important users” are supplied with electricity and promised a series of measures – including opening up the price at which it buys energy from coal-fired producers and increasing the range of electricity trading prices – to incentivise power companies to increase their output.
The company also said it would “promote low-carbon and energy-efficient” generation and “suppress unreasonable demand for electricity” and had built up coal reserves of over 99 million tonnes – enough to produce 20 days worth of power.
Meanwhile, China has been buying electricity from neighbouring countries such as North Korea, Russia and Myanmar. Its coal imports also rose by 76 per cent in September compared with the previous year, as it explored non-traditional markets such as Mozambique and South Africa as well as other countries like Kazakhstan and Colombia.