Hydropower running out of steam

Updated: 2011-05-25 11:11

By Tan Zongyang and Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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Adjusted work hours and blackouts introduced to curb energy shortage

BEIJING/HEFEI - The abnormally hot weather and severe drought in Central and South China has affected hydropower production and may lead to a severe power shortage this summer.

In East China's Anhui province, the power shortage is expected to reach as much as 25 million kilowatts at peak hours this summer, partly caused by low water levels for hydropower, said an industry insider.

"If the drought continues, dams in the province will run out of water to generate electricity," Hu Xiaofei, director of the electric dispatch department of Anhui Electric Power Co, the province's largest power supplier, told China Daily on Tuesday.

He said the water level in reservoirs at Dabie Mountains has dropped more than 10 meters the past few months, and without rainfall, dams will dry up within only a few weeks, making hydropower generation impossible for the province.

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The common problem appeared among regions along the Yangtze River in Central China as the water levels in rivers and lakes have hit a record low.

In Central China's Hubei province, water levels at about 1,392 reservoirs have been too low to sustain water turbines as of May 15. The water level of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydropower facility, fell below 156 meters - the required lowest level for full power generation, according to statistics from the Hubei water resources department.

On Monday, the State Grid, the State-owned power distributor, held a nationwide video conference to handle the power shortages in several provinces.

The company said 10 of its provincial-level power grids are suffering grim power shortages, including Chongqing, Hunan, Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai. The company estimated that the country may face a summer electricity shortage of 30 gigawatts, making it the most severe power shortfall since 2004.

Yin Changxin, director of the safety supervision and quality department in the State Grid, said the corporation will enhance its power transmission capacity among different regions.

"We will also strengthen safety checks of grid equipment and improve efficiency of power distribution," he said in an interview with China Central Television.

Hu Xiaofei said Anhui province has already introduced curbs on power use to cope with the power shortfalls.

On Friday, 3,789 high energy-consuming enterprises in the province were requested by the provincial government to adjust their working hours to guarantee power supply to residents.

"Power brownouts came much earlier this year. Last summer they were seen in August and September."

Last year, the provincial government shut many high-energy using enterprises, such as small cement plants, to avoid staggering electricity usage and ensure power supply to residents and key industries.


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