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Watchdog Warns of Possible Power Cuts

The nation's electricity industry watchdog has submitted an emergency plan to the State Council to get the nation well-prepared for possible massive power cuts over the next few months. 

The State Electric Power Regulatory Commission warned that power shortages could worsen in the summer after two-thirds of the nation's territory suffered rolling power cuts in the first four months of this year.


The emergency plan was submitted as the country's electricity supply is hardly able to keep up with surging consumption that is being driven by the nation's robust economic growth.


China's electricity demand rose 16.1 percent year-on-year to 650.5 billion kilowatt-hours in the first four months of 2004, while power generation rose 15.8 percent to 647.3 billion kilowatt-hours, according to the commission.


Two-thirds of the nation's territory -- 24 provinces and regions -- experienced blackouts, power switch-offs or electricity rationing during the period.


"Since April, electricity shortages have obviously intensified in some regions. The electricity supply is tight in general," said Shi Yubo, the commission's vice chairman.


The commission expected the full-year electricity shortage in China to reach 60 billion kilowatt-hours, or 3 percent of last year's total power consumption.


It expected that the country will lack 20,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the second quarter, compared with the full-year shortage of 15,000 megawatts last year.


The shortage will rise further to between 25,000 and 30,000 megawatts in the third quarter when air conditioners will use huge amounts of power during the sweltering summer months. The shortage will then fall back to 10,000 megawatts during the fourth quarter, Shi said.


Shi also expressed concern over the safety of the power industry as most of the generating plants are operating at full capacity without any reserve margin.


The power grids usually keep a normal reserve margin of 10 percent of total transmission capacity in order to prevent them from blowing out.


Shi said the system is at stake as generators and grids have few chances for maintenance.


The increasing theft of transmission lines and destruction of other infrastructure facilities also pose a threat to the system, Shi added.


The country is speeding up the construction of new generators and increasing the capacity of power transmission to maintain stable supplies.


New generators with combined capacity of 130,000 megawatts are under construction, including generators of 37,000 megawatts that will put into operation this year.


(China Daily June 5, 2004)

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