BEIJING, Aug 11 (Reuters) - China will continue to “prepare for the worst” in the coming weeks in order to make sure that its strained power grids can handle record levels of demand, the country’s top energy official said in remarks published on Thursday.
Liu Tienan said during a visit to the State Grid Corporation that the country had so far managed to avoid the severe power shortages predicted earlier in the year, saying the power sector had “overcome the difficulties of rising coal prices and abnormal water levels”.
But while China's efforts this summer have so far been successful, weather and water levels were still uncertain and a number of regions were struggling to control soaring demand from high-energy consuming sectors, Liu said, according to a notice posted on the NEA's website (nyj.ndrc.gov.cn).
In March, government and industry officials were already warning that the country could be facing its worst electricity shortages in years, and were forecasting a capacity gap of around 30-40 gigawatts.
Shortages began to bite in March, and several provinces began imposing restrictions on power use in April — two or three months before the traditional summer consumption peak.
Experts said China’s fixed pricing system was discouraging power plants from producing at full capacity, especially as coal prices rose, and the problems were compounded by a long drought that reduced China’s hydropower capacity.
However, shortages over June and July were limited, and industrial output remained robust, thanks to heavy rainfall which cut air conditioner use and replenished reservoirs at hydropower plants.
China produced a record 425.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in July, up 13.2 percent year on year, but soaring temperatures near the end of the month pushed daily power use up to a new high of more than 15 billion kWh. (Reporting by Judy Hua and David Stanway; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)