Power shortage disrupts life, production in China

Updated: 2011-05-12 10:36


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BEIJING -- All the electric gates of modern apartment buildings in Kaifu district of Changsha city are kept wide open. Once closed, they wouldn't open again because of an ongoing power shortage.

Such scenarios are not uncommon in Central China's Hunan where people's lives are being disrupted as the province rations power amid a serious power shortage.

Hunan will continue to cut power in cities across the province until early June.

A spokesman for the Hunan Provincial Commission of Economy and Information Technology says it's impossible to calculate the number of people affected by the power cuts.

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"Residential buildings are one of six priority areas. Others include hospitals, banks and infrastructure, none of which are receiving enough power," the spokesman said.

The power shortage plaguing eastern, central and southern China may be hampering the country's economic performance.

China's industrial value-added output rose 13.4 percent year-on-year in April, down from March's 14.8-percent growth, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Wednesday.

Analysts blame the slow down partly on the power shortages that have plagued many industry-heavy provinces such as Zhejiang, Guangdong and Jiangsu since mid-April.

"In the short term, power shortages and cuts in some provinces will slow growth of some heavy industries, including cement, non-ferrous metal, iron and steel, and chemical sectors in those areas," Wang Tao, an economist with UBS Securities, forecasts.

However, Wang says the risk of a severe nationwide power shortage causing a sharp economic slowdown is slim, even though the drought shows little sign of dissipating, prices of coal remain high and electricity demand is yet to reach its summer peak.

Drought hits hydro-power

Water levels of Hunan's lakes and rivers have hit a record low as the province's rainfall has dropped by more than 50 percent from previous years.

The drought has disrupted drinking water supplies to 320,000 people and 260,000 livestock in Hunan, according to the drought relief office of Hunan's water resources department.

With the dropping water levels, hydro-power output also shrank rapidly. The province's hydro-power units are generating only 2.2 million KWH per day, while their designed capacity is 9.4 million KWB per day, according to statistics from the Hunan branch of the State Grid.

This is a common problem among regions along the Yangtze River in central and eastern China as the river's water level has dropped sharply since February. It's middle reaches has reached the lowest level in 50 years.

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