Energy shortages have got worse in some parts of the country due to increasing demand for electricity resulting from high temperatures.
Blackouts sometimes occur as local residents switch on their fans and air conditioners because of soaring temperatures in the middle and lower regions of the Yangtze River.
Gang Zheng, a resident in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, where the average temperature is above 40 ℃ and has peaked at 43 ℃ in some areas, said his air conditioner is on full blast all day.
"So far we are lucky that we have not suffered from a blackout," said Gang.
But in some parts of Henan Province where the temperature has been unusually high this summer, blackouts have occurred during the peak hour of energy consumption.
Besides cooling off high temperatures, economic officials contributed the electricity shortage to the higher production by enterprises after the SARS outbreak.
"Many enterprises are planning to compensate for the losses caused by SARS," said Ma Liqiang, official with National Development and Reform Commission.
He said that some regions of North, East and South China, including the economically booming Shanghai Municipality and Guangdong Province, have experienced power shortages this summer during consumption peaks.
Because a drought has continued to affect the Yellow River, a problem for the power supplies exists in western areas such as Qinghai and Gansu provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which all rely heavily on hydroelectric power.
To alleviate the shortages, the commission is encouraging customers to avoid using electricity during peak times by raising rates during business hours and lowering it afterwards.
Officials from the industry watchdog insisted that the power shortage is under control. Rather than an overall supply disruption, the blackouts may only occur during the busiest hours in the summer, with supplies remaining stable for the rest of the day.
Beginning from June, a total of 1.5 billion kwh of electricity will be transferred to areas of East China from Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
Officials from Sichuan said the electricity supply to East China would not affect power use in the province, as a surplus power supply had been achieved following a period of abundant rainfall.
The electricity transferred to East China, equivalent to the power generated by burning about 56.51 million tons of coal, will fill peak electricity needs in summer in the eastern area.
Officials from the State Grid Corporation of China said 300 million kwh of electricity will be diverted to East China's electricity grid every month to ease power shortages there.
To cope with the power supply problem, China launched a west-to-east power transmission project in 2000, making it one of China's major strategies in energy development and an important step for developing the western regions.
(China Daily July 29, 2003)