Chinese switch to flashlights, generators amid power cuts

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People were snacking by torches and shoppers turned on generators as Chinese cities enforce power cuts to meet official conservation goals

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Shenyang, China – People snacked on smartphone lights and shoppers turned on generators as Chinese cities on Wednesday implemented power cuts to meet official conservation targets and reduce shortages in some areas.

News reports blame high coal prices, saying power companies are reluctant to meet rising demand, while economists say the real motive is political: the use of energy on officials to meet official targets. pressure to reduce.

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In the northeast’s most populous city, Shenyang, restaurant owner Li Yufeng used a battery from an electric bicycle to power a pot for noodles after noticing that the power would turn off at 7:30 a.m., Li said. That he started work two hours ago. 6 in the morning, to prepare chicken, sauces and other dishes.

“There are some effects, but not a huge one,” Li said as customers ate under the light of smartphones.

Factories in China’s busiest manufacturing provinces have been ordered to suspend production for a week, which could disrupt global supplies of smartphones and other goods. Now, with urban neighborhoods being blacked out, pleas are being made on social media for the government to solve the problem.

China’s electricity consumption is growing at almost twice its normal rate, while the ruling Communist Party is trying to reduce energy intensity, or the amount of economic output per unit.

“The cuts are largely driven by energy consumption control measures, with power shortages affecting some other provinces,” IHS Markit’s Lara Dong said in an email.

“This is in line with China’s decarbonization ambitions,” she said.

The cabinet’s planning agency warned in August that 20 sectors had exceeded energy use and pollution targets as the pandemic rebounded. The government has ambitious plans to make the economy cleaner and more energy-efficient, so failing to meet those goals could result in career endings.

Bank of America said in a report that power cuts “could be more disruptive than previous reductions.” Due to shortages in some areas, it said, “the easing of the government’s energy consumption targets may not immediately reduce power shortages.”

China is the world’s largest emitter of climate-changing industrial gases and consumes more energy per unit of economic output than developed countries. In view of its huge population, it ranks very low on per capita basis.

China is preparing for the Winter Olympics in February in the capital Beijing and the nearby city of Shijiazhuang, a period when it will crave clear blue skies.

Officials in Jiangsu province, a manufacturing hub northwest of Shanghai, told state media that some cities there have used 90% of this year’s quota for electricity use. Officials from the provincial planning agency were quoted as saying that individual city governments had to decide how best to meet their goals.

The government of Guangdong province, China’s largest manufacturing hub, has cited both official energy use limits and low water levels in the hydroelectric reservoirs that provide a large portion of its electricity.

In Liaoning province, where Shenyang is the capital, the government said in a statement on Sunday that electricity demand reached a record high in the first eight months of the year. It said Liaoning has faced shortages since then due to a decline in wind power and other sources.

The government of neighboring Jilin province blamed the shortage on coal. It said in a statement on Monday that its governor would visit miners in nearby Inner Mongolia for additional supplies.

Some advance warnings of power cuts to residents of Shenyang and other cities cited the need to ration electricity, but did not explain why.

Noodle restaurant owner Lee showed a reporter a notice circulated on social media that there would be a power outage in his neighborhood from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The generator was running on the sidewalk near shopkeeper Yang Chang to keep the freezer full of meat cold.

“As long as there is electricity we can sell things unlike restaurants that need water,” Yang said. Yang didn’t know or care what caused the power outage, but he said, “It makes sense.”

“I was born in the ’90s. When I was younger, the power was not constant,” Yang said. “Though we are facing difficulties, the government will find a solution.”

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Video Producers Olivia Zhang in Shenyang and Writers Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed.

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