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Power problems exposed by weather
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Power authorities should reconsider the design of the country's electricity transmission network in light of the lessons learned during the havoc of the recent snowstorms, industry insiders said yesterday on the sidelines of the CPPCC.

"The electricity supply network is the issue that I am most concerned about," Lu Qizhou, head of China Power Investment Corporation, one of the country's largest power producers, and a newly elected member of the CPPCC, said.

He said in addition to improving the main lines of the national power grid, authorities should also strengthen the lines in rural areas.

With the main grid and rural lines working together, the power supply should be stable, even in the face of a disaster, he said.

"Even if some main lines break, urban lines should be able to maintain a basic supply instead of just going completely offline," Lu said.

Severe snowstorms hit central, southern and southwestern areas in January.

The country's largest power transmission company, State Grid, said it suffered direct economic losses of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.4 billion) as a result of the blizzards.

In Chenzhou, the hardest-hit city, about 1,000 pylons and poles collapsed under the weight of ice and snow, which meant the power grid, which had taken several decades to build, was totally destroyed.

State Grid will spend 39 billion yuan to renovate and rebuild the transmission infrastructure damaged during the snowstorms, president Liu Zhenya has said.

On the sidelines of the meeting yesterday, Lu said China should also pay more attention to the transportation of coal.

"The transportation of coal was seriously affected by the snowstorm so we should take this into account when planning ways to minimize the effects of natural disasters," he said.

Despite the power shortages, the provincial capitals of Hunan, Jiangxi and Guizhou maintained their power supplies as local generators managed to stay online.

Lu said that this is also a valuable lesson for the power system.

He said large power plants may be more efficient and better for the environment, but major cities need their own plants to ensure supplies in the event of an emergency.

Cities should be able to support themselves, at least temporarily, if the power supply is disrupted, he said.

Lu said the country's current electricity supply remains stable.

"The supply is enough to meet the demand, although it tends to be tight," he said.

He said that by next month, the amount of power in circulation will increase because power stations in the south will resume normal operations.

(China Daily March 5, 2008)

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