China steps up measures to head off blackouts

SHANGHAI, Agencies and AP

Energy-hungry China said Monday it has stepped up power saving measures as part of a campaign to keep electricity failures to a minimum due to a surge in demand amid sweltering summer temperatures.

Authorities in China’s leading economic city Shanghai have ordered another 700 enterprises to switch high-voltage consumption operations from day to night in hopes that off-peak usage will ease China’s badly strained power grids.

The move follows a similar mandate in the eastern port city of 17 million people to 500 enterprises that have been operating at night since June 15. “The enterprises that are asked to operate at night are the enterprises that cause heavy pollution — enterprises that consume large amounts of energy but with low output, and also enterprises with some work safety problems,” said He Changqun, director of the electricity sector of Shanghai Economic Committee.

“They are big and small, and of all kinds,” he said.

China is in the midst of another electricity crisis as its booming economy creates a massive appetite for energy that could result in a 30,000 megawatt power shortage over the summer months, the worse shortfall since the 1980s. Please see CHINA on page

China’s economy grew 9.8 percent in the first quarter, pushing demand for power beyond the country’s struggling generators.

To crank up supply, China will invest a record 18.8 billion yuan (US$2.27 billion) this year in revamping the nation’s eastern power grid in an effort to relieve growing power shortages in the booming coastal areas.

In Shanghai from Monday, 3,000 enterprises will be divided into seven groups and begin rotating week-long vacations to help conserve energy as temperatures hit highs of 37 degrees Celsius over the weekend and meteorologists said no end to the heat wave was in sight.

The lights along Shanghai’s famous riverside Bund have been dimmed as scorching temperatures raised worries over a chronic power shortage in China’s commercial capital.

Though neon advertising signs stayed lit, other outdoor lighting on the Bund’s row of European colonial buildings along the Huangpu River was switched off as temperatures surged to 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit).

The city’s landmark Oriental Pearl Tower and skyscrapers in the financial district across the river from the Bund were also dark. Lights in parks and along promenades were also shut off when the temperature hit 35 C (95 F), under a plan intended to conserve power at times of peak usage.

Facing a worsening energy shortage, China’s biggest city has already ordered factories to close during peak demand times, and told shops and offices to set air conditioners no cooler than 26 C (79 F).

In addition, construction projects deemed not crucial will stopped if temperatures reach 35 degrees or above, while air conditioners in government buildings, hotels and shopping malls should not be set below 26 degrees.

He Changqun said that most foreign enterprises were unlikely to be affected however.

“Generally speaking, foreign enterprises here are with high producing technology so basically foreign enterprises are not included.”

“If they, however, do have the problem of being high polluting and high energy consuming but with low output, we will also ask them to do the same as the Chinese enterprises,” He added.