China now faces a 69.63 million kilowatt electricity supply shortfall, and a total of 13 provincial level power grids have been temporarily switched off to limit power usage, the People's Daily reported.
Central China Power Grid has begun to ration electricity to the Hubei and Sichuan provinces and Chongqing Municipality due to an acute shortage in coal stockpiles and strained coal transportation affected by adverse weather conditions, the Beijing News reported on Tuesday.
The region now has only 5.57 million tons of coal remaining, only half that of the normal level, and enough to meet only seven days of consumption volume, earlier reports said. The central Chinese power grid covers the provinces of Jiangxi, Hubei, Hunan and Sichuan, as well as Chongqing Municipality.
Statistics from the State Power Control Center shows the country burned 2.1 million tons of coal for power generation on January 20, while national stock dropped to 17.73 million tons from 20 million tons on January 10.
An insider with the State Grid was quoted by the Beijing News as noting that the national inventory of coal must be kept at no less than 14 million tons by the end of this month in order to ensure stable power supplies.
An official with the China Coal Transportation and Marketing Association said that since some coal mines in Shanxi Province have been closed for safety overhauls, production in the coal-rich province has dropped sharply, and is now barely enough to supply local power plants.
Meanwhile, the recent widespread snowfall in the central and eastern parts of the country have affected some railways and roads, delaying transportation. Power consumption has also surged significantly in the winter season.
To address the rapidly decreasing coal supply, the State Grid has requested that the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) commence a demand-side management strategy to maximize available resources, the paper reported.
The country's top economic planning agency has responded by vowing to guarantee the continued operation of key power plants and arrange for coal transportation to power generators.
(CRI January 23, 2008)