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January 7, 2010

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Electricity rationing begins as China's huge freeze continues

CITIES across eastern and central China are rationing power for industry and urging residents to limit gas use after a wave of icy weather sent energy demand soaring while straining supplies of coal that were already tight.

Much of China's manufacturing and farming heartland shivered yesterday under snow, sleet and an unusual cold front that drove south after dumping big snowfalls on Beijing and the country's north since last weekend.

Daytime temperatures in Shanghai and across the nearby coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang skidded close to 0 degrees Celsius, and many areas inland were hit by snow or sleet, according to meteorological departments.

The harsh weather has pushed energy demand to new peaks, while transport snarls have slowed coal supplies.

Power authorities have said they should be able to surmount the strains by expanding transmission between regions and rationing power and gas use by thousands of factories, with limited disruption to the broader economy.

Coastal Shandong Province limited power to industry after the cold pushed generating capacity to its limit.

Eastern Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces were also straining to meet power demand, and some cities imposed rations for industry.

The inland province of Hubei has been rationing electricity after some power plants shut due to a lack of coal, local media said.

However, China's top exporting province, Guangdong in the south, has enough power to ensure "normal operations," the China News Service reported, citing a provincial electricity official.

While most residents in northern cities, such as Beijing, enjoy centralised heating, cities south of the Yangtze River do not, leaving many to endure the cold or buy their own heaters.

But even the capital curbed heating to government buildings, shopping malls, office buildings and industry to ensure supplies to residents.


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