January/February 2010

Chinese curb power use

Some Chinese factories were ordered last month to shut down to ensure sufficient power to heat homes as demand surged amid record-setting winter cold, a utility company said.

According to The Associated Press, 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., which operates most of China's power-distribution network.

"Power demand is greatly increased because people need to stay warm," Liu said. "Our facilities are in excellent shape, but we lack coal. It's like cooking without rice."

Temperatures in Beijing plunged to 3°F (-16°C) recently, the lowest in 33 years, the China News Service reported.

Last winter, some areas of China suffered blackouts after power companies let coal stockpiles run low due to high costs and snowstorms disrupted supply efforts. China relies on coal for about 70% of its power.

In Hubei province in central China, some factories were ordered to shut down because power demand outstripped supply, said Liu. He said State Grid was moving power to Hubei 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."