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January 5, 2010

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State grid sees tight time for power supplies

THE State Grid Corp of China, which supplies power to more than 1 billion people, has warned that a national electricity shortage may worsen.

It said thermal-coal stockpiles were falling amid the delay in deliveries caused by bad weather.

By last Monday, the State Grid, the larger of the nation's two major power distributors, had 8.94 million tons of thermal coal in stock, only enough for 10 days, China Business News reported yesterday.

Some cities had begun temporarily switching off power supplies to limit consumption, the report said.

China relies on coal for almost 80 percent of its electricity generation.

Insufficient fuel supplies have forced the suspension of more than a dozen generators of the grid's branch in east China.

By last Tuesday, the total thermal-coal stockpile for Jiangxi Province, which is covered by Central China Grid, was nearly 1.07 million tons, far below the lowest acceptable 1.6 million tons and enough for 11 days' supply.

Central China's Hubei Province had restricted power consumption since December 11 but the supply for the first quarter would still be tight, said Yang Yong, deputy general engineer of the provincial power company.

"There will still be a shortage of 760,000 tons of thermal coal in relation to demand between December and March, Yang said.

From last Monday, nearly 2,000 manufacturers in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, suspended daily operations alternatively to ensure power supplies to residents.

Power plants in Jingmen, Hanchuan and Xiangfan have stopped generation.

Eleven of the province's 36 generators, each with a capacity of more than 200,000 kilowatts, had suspended operations by last Monday.

Power consumption in Hubei this year could reach 123.5 billion kilowatt-hours, an increase of about 10 billion kilowatt-hours year on year.

This was far beyond current capabilities, the provincial development and reform committee said.

East China is also facing a worse-than-expected thermal-coal shortfall.

"The increase in demand ahead of schedule has caused temporary power-supply limitations in Shanghai and Jiangsu," said an official at the state power regulator.

The official said the situation had improved recently "but it is still very tight."


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