Monday, March 10, 2008

Winter storms cost China power sector 16 bln yuan

China's power sector lost some 16 billion yuan ($2.25 billion) when the worst winter storms in half a century brought down transmission lines and snarled transport of fuel, a former top regulator said on Wednesday.

The heavy snow and ice hit swathes of southern and central China in late January and early February, causing one of the country's worst power crises as coal supplies ran out and generators couldn't transmit their electricity to hard-hit areas.

"Losses from the storms were 16 billion yuan," Shao Bingren, former vice-chairman of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of China's parliament in Beijing.

The disaster is still having serious knock-on effects in Guangdong province, China's manufacturing hub, the Hong-Kong based South China Morning Post reported earlier this month.

The southern province is facing its worst power crisis in 30 years because the storm brought down links to neighbouring provinces that normally supplement power from its own producers.

About 10 gigawatts (GW) will not reach the province, creating a supply shortfall at peak demand times this month of 12 GW, twice last year's highest level.

The link lines will not be fully restored before May, the report quoted a deputy director of the Guangdong Economic and Trade Commission as saying.

Low water levels in the province's hydropower reservoirs have compounded the problem, and many companies are buying or dusting off diesel generators -- despite high fuel costs.

In 2004 a massive power crisis in China pushed up demand for diesel as businesses turned to individual generators to keep production on, boosting world prices.

($1=7.108 Yuan)

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