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January 6, 2010

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Factories receive closing orders to ensure residential electricity

SOME factories in central China were ordered yesterday to close to ensure sufficient power to heat homes as demand surged amid a record-setting winter cold spell.

No outages were reported, but coal supplies were running low at power plants in central China, said Liu Xinfang, a spokesman for State Grid Corp of China, which operates most of the nation's power-distribution network.

A weekend storm blanketed much of China with snow, sending temperatures plunging, snarling traffic and prompting some cities to close schools.

"Power demand is greatly increased because people need to stay warm," The Associated Press quoted Liu as saying.

"Our facilities are in excellentshape, but we lack coal. It's like cooking without rice."

In Hubei Province in central China, some factories were ordered to shut because power demand outstripped supply, said Liu, adding that State Grid was moving power there from other provinces.

"We are putting a priority on residential power consumption," Liu said. "We are asking factories to take turns cutting power use. Then we will ask commercial facilities to limit power use."

As the cold front moved southeast, Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province began rationing gas for industrial users.

The maximum temperature yesterday dropped to 4 degrees Celsius, as the local government announced the city's daily natural gas supplies would be 300,000 cubic meters short of demand if the weather persisted.

Central and eastern China provinces were reporting shortages of power-generation coal and some cities had restricted power supplies.

Coal shortages were worst in eastern China's Jiangxi Province, where power plants had a total of 1 million tons, well below the "alarm level" of 1.6 million tons, the China News Service said. It said that would meet Jiangxi's power needs for 10 to 11 days. Experts attributed the strain on power supplies to the resurgent economy and a demand for heating.

Ge Xubo, chief engineer of the State Grid Energy Research Institute, said transmission would be expanded between provinces to aid those short of power.

He said long-distance transmission lines would start trial operations this month, which should improve distribution, but he gave no timetable.

Zhou Gang, director of the SGCC safety inspection department, said no power grid failures had been reported in north China due to the heavy snow over the New Year holiday.

In Beijing, more than 3,000 staffers at the SGCC's Beijing Electric Power Co were working when the snow began. An extra 799 vehicles for emergencies were on duty to repair power lines, said Zhou.

Traffic authorities, postal services and ministries were working to maintain order as the weather caused major traffic problems.

By 11pm on Monday, some sections on14 highways in Tianjin, Hebei, Shandong and Inner Mongolia were still closed due to snow, the Ministry of Transport said in a statement yesterday.


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