04/25/2008, 00.00
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China expects another summer of frequent blackouts

According to official data, the energy shortfall will amount to 10 gigawatts, equivalent to millions of households. But experts maintain that the shortage will be even greater. The low "political" cost of electricity forces power stations to operate at a loss and with low reserves, with the risk of remaining in the dark.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - China's demand for energy could exceed available supplies this year by about 10 gigawatts, equivalent to about 3.5 million households at the moment of highest consumption.  The excess demand will provoke interruptions in power supplies in various parts of the country during the summer, one of the most sensitive periods of the year.  Raising the alarm is Wang Yeping, vice-chairman of the state electricity regulatory commission.

To satisfy its growing hunger for energy, China continues to build new coal-fired power plants, but the increasing cost of coal, the high demand, and transportation congestion are causing systematic scarcity of reserves, which are now generally sufficient for just 12 days, or even less.  This caused serious problems last February, when heavy snowfall blocked streets and railways and destroyed electrical lines, and many plants risk closing because of lack of coal.  Since then the price of coal has fallen, but it has still remained more than 37% higher than the price one year ago.

The state sells electricity at a low price, but this forces many plants to operate at a loss, and induces them to keep coal reserves to a minimum.  Moreover, high inflation is making it difficult to raise the price of electricity.  Experts maintain that even Wang's forecast is optimistic, observing that in March Guangdong forecast that its own energy shortfall will amount to at least 10 gigawatts.

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