China’s scorching southwest extends power curbs as drought, heatwave continues

China's scorching southwest extends power curbs as drought, heatwave continues
  • China announces 11th consecutive heat ‘red alert’
  • Sichuan extends industrial power use curbs until Aug. 25
  • Chongqing cuts working hours of commercial venues
  • Shortages could affect Tesla

SHANGHAI, Aug 22 (Reuters) – China’s scorched southwestern regions extended curbs on power consumption on Monday as they deal with dwindling hydropower output and surging household electricity demand during a long drought and heatwave.

State weather forecasters issued a heat “red alert” for the 11th consecutive day on Monday, as extreme weather continues to play havoc with power supplies and damage crops. They also raised the national drought alert to “orange” – the second-highest level.

The drought has already “severely affected” mid-season rice and summer corn in some southern regions, the ministry of agriculture said on Sunday.

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The National Meteorological Center said as many as 62 weather stations, from Sichuan in the southwest to Fujian on the southeastern coast, saw record temperatures on Sunday. The situation could improve starting Wednesday as a cold front moves into China via Xinjiang.

The region of Chongqing, which hit temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) late last week, announced that opening hours at more than 500 malls and other commercial venues would be shortened starting Monday to ease power demand.

Malls on the list contacted by Reuters on Monday confirmed they had received the government notice and would abide by the rules. Two hotels on the list said they were still operating normally but would restrict air conditioner use.

In neighboring Sichuan province, a major hydropower generator, authorities also extended existing curbs on industrial power consumers until Thursday, financial news service Caixin said on Sunday. Power generation in Sichuan is at just half the normal level after a massive decline in water levels.

Caixin cited battery industry firms as saying that industrial power users in the cities of Yibin and Suining had been told to remain closed until Thursday.

Sichuan – a major power supplier to the rest of the country – has recently put a new coal storage base into operation to make sure its thermal plants can operate without disruption.

However, around 80% of its installed capacity is hydropower, making it especially vulnerable to fluctuations in water supplies.

Several companies confirmed on Monday that they were restricting output because of extended power supply curbs. Pesticide producer Lier Chemical Co Ltd (002258.SZ) confirmed in on Monday that restrictions would continue until Thursday.

JinkoSolar (JKS.N)a major solar power equipment manufacturer, said its Sichuan manufacturing facilities have been halted as a result of power shortages, adding that it was “uncertain” how long the measures would last.

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T) gradually resumed operations at its Sichuan plant in China on Monday using a power generator after suspending operations last week, the company’s spokesperson said.

Several plants in Sichuan and Chongqing, including those of top battery maker CATL (300750.SZ) and the electric vehicle giant BYD (002594.SZ)have only been able to partially operate in recent weeks because of power shortages.

Sources familiar with the matter said CATL’s Yibin plant makes battery cells for Tesla (TSLA.O)and there were concerns that disruptions could eventually affect the US automaker, though production at its Shanghai plant remains unchanged.

Shanghai, criticized on China’s Twitter-like Weibo for its use of electricity generated in Sichuan, imposed its own consumption restrictions on Monday, turning off decorative lighting on the riverside Bund area and parts of the financial center of Lujiazui for two days.

Firms will be encouraged to “stagger” power consumption to reduce peak loads, and some construction projects will be suspended, the official Shanghai Daily said.

Important agricultural regions have been warning of the impact on crops, with Henan province saying more than a million hectares of land have been affected by drought so far.

About 2.2 million hectares across the Yangtze basin have been affected, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.

Poyang Lake, located in one of the Yangtze river’s flood plains and described as China’s “kidney” because of the role it plays in regulating water supplies, is now 67% smaller than the average over the last 10 years, state broadcaster CCTV said.

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Reporting by David Stanway and Zhang Yan in Shanghai, Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Additional reporting by the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill, Gerry Doyle and Susan Fenton

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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