East China enterprises face blackouts amid power shortages

08:51, May 04, 2011      

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The small township of Songsha in east China's Zhejiang Province is dubbed the "capital of umbrellas" because the output of its 1,000-plus small and medium-sized umbrella makers accounts for about one-third of the nation's total.

However, the bustling township has been baffled over the past few months by a frequent blackout due to rationing of electricity.

"Electricity in our township has been cut off one in every four days since March this year, and the outage affects all users, no matter whether they are industrial or residential," said Zhang Han, chief of Songsha township government.

Large enterprises in the eastern, economically developed region are not exempt from the power cutoffs either.

Jiabao Holding Group, the chemical fiber giant in Shaoxing City, Zhejiang, was also cut off from power supplies several times this year.

"Usually the power would be cut off for the whole morning and our employees had no places to have their lunch, as the canteen had no power," said Sun Xinwei, president of the company.

The power shortage has swept a large part of the country, especially in the eastern and southern regions, as the demand rose considerably months ahead of the summer peak.

According to a circular issued by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country's top economic planner, about 20 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have started rationing electricity since the beginning of this year.

The circular noted that China would face stringent power demand this year as use of electricity rises dramatically.

Statistics from the National Energy Bureau show that China's electricity consumption in the first quarter of this year has risen 12.72 percent year on year to 1.09 trillion kilowatts/hours.

As the summer peak is approaching, power shortages are likely to worsen in such areas as Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, where the economy is more developed, experts say.

Further, the China Electricity Council predicted that electricity consumption in 2011 would rise 12 percent over last year to 4.7 trillion kilowatts/hours.

Analysts attributed the power shortage, mainly to insufficient coal supplies.

The central China grid network, which provides power to over 400 million people in central and south China, has coal stockpiles sufficient only for nine days, fewer than the recommended 15 days.

The power shortages occurring at an unusual time like the current period once again sparked concerns over the need for adjustments in the nation's economic structure.

Figures from the statistics department of Zhejiang Province indicate that the non-ferrous metal smelting industry contributed the most to electricity consumption in the first three months of this year.

The power shortage that is casting a shadow over China's economic growth can only be solved in the long term when China shifts its development to a more energy efficient model, said Lin Weibin, deputy director with the Chinese Energy and Strategic Resources Research Center, Beijing Normal University.

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