06/09/2008, 00.00
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Coal rationed in Guangdong, electricity shortages in many provinces

Electricity production is insufficient to meet demand, and coal rationing has been introduced for many industries, which have to use more expensive petrol-powered generators. The snowfall in February damaged the electricity system, and the earthquake caused the collapse of many mines.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Coal is being rationed, and energy costs are rising for industries in Guangdong, following damage to the electricity system caused by the snowfall in February, and to coal mines by the earthquake in Sichuan.

In the industrial hub of Dongguan, coal has been rationed a few days each week since May.  This has forced many industries to produce the electricity they need using petrol-powered generators, with a cost increase of 10-15%.

In China, electricity shortages are normal for July and August.  This year the situation is worse because of the damage to the power stations and to the electricity system caused by the heavy snowfall in February, which has been only partially repaired, and now by the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan.  The earthquake also destroyed many coal mines in Sichuan and in Shanxi, causing supply problems.  There is also the desire of the authorities to decrease the use of coal, which is highly polluting, in order to improve air quality for the Beijing Olympics, which begin on August 8.

The problem is serious all over the country, and the electricity centres in five provinces have enough coal for only a few days.  Experts say that this is also a consequence of the policy of holding down the price of coal, in order to foster industry and contain inflation.  Last week, the governments of Shandong and Shaanxi, provinces that produce large amounts of coal, banned rises in the price of coal until at least September 15.  But such decisions discourage mines, especially the smaller ones, from increasing production.

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