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August 3, 2009

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Energy demand strains power network

SHANGHAI'S power infrastructure could be further improved to meet growing electricity demand in a city that is short on fuels like oil and coal but boasts a population of 19 million.

After decades of construction, the city's power grid, now with a peak supply capacity of 24.1 gigawatts, has become one of the world's largest regional networks. Yet despite the growing capacity, the network is still challenged to meet demand during heat waves as a construction boom continues in the run-up to the 2010 World Expo.

In terms of density, the city's power load has hit 3,538 kilowatts per square kilometer, doubling that of Tokyo, a typical developed metropolis, according to Shanghai Electric Power Co, the local subsidiary of State Grid Corp of China.

"We still have much to do to improve the supply network as the situation during peak periods remains critical," said Wang Changxing, a spokesman of Shanghai Electric.

One example is that the electricity Shanghai purchases from Sichuan Province and the Three Gorges Dam in southwest China can only be distributed to Shanghai's Songjiang and Minhang districts due to a bottleneck in local transmission capacity, which prevents the power from reaching other districts, Wang said.

The company is now focusing on the construction of an inter-city power network including the upgrade and installation of transformer substations, as the State Grid has earmarked 73.5 billion yuan (US$10.76 billion) of investment for Shanghai in the five years through 2010.

The situation will be better next year when construction of the World Expo site is finished. "There are more than 4,000 construction projects ongoing for the World Expo simultaneously, and the grid improvements have been halted in that area," Wang said.

On the afternoon of July 20, the city's power load hit a record high of 23.8 gigawatts as households and businesses cranked up air-conditioners. Officials have said the peak load could reach 24 gigawatts, maybe even 24.3 gigawatts in extreme weather, this summer, and rise to 26 gigawatts next year.

The city continues to add generating capacity. Local power generating capacity stands at 15.6 gigawatts now compared to 14.7 gigawatts last year.


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