China's blistering heat strains power grids, disrupts farming

Several regions have already posted record power demand and have cut electricity to factories at peak hours. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Scorching temperatures across China are straining power grids, as the country tries to ramp up industrial activity to support the economy, while farmers are scrambling to save crops such as rice and cotton from the impact of the searing heat.

Several regions have already posted record power demand and have cut electricity to factories at peak hours to make sure enough is available to keep air conditioners running.

Rice crops and fruit and vegetables in Southern China are at risk of being damaged by the heat, and melting glaciers are causing floods in the cotton-growing regions of Xinjiang.

The disruptions in the world's No. 2 economy are yet another sign of the risk posed by increasingly frequent extreme weather events caused by climate change. India, Europe and the United States have also been ravaged by heatwaves this summer.

The heat is testing China's ability to keep its factories running, from the eastern manufacturing centre of Zhejiang that borders Shanghai to the technology hub of Shenzhen in the south.

Several regions have enacted so called orderly consumption that calls for low-priority factories to reduce use during peak hours to ensure supply for residents.

China has so far avoided the widespread power curtailments that hit the country last fall, when there was a nationwide shortage of coal. The authorities have expressed confidence that the current situation is manageable, not least because the supply of coal is much higher after miners were ordered to raise production to record levels.

"After entering July, as the economy grows and temperatures rise amid the global wave of persistently hot weather, our electricity consumption and power load are also growing rapidly," the National Energy Administration said Wednesday (July 27). "The supply and demand of electricity in the country is still stable and orderly."

Extreme temperatures have been affecting different regions in China for more than a month now, resulting in fatal heat strokes in places including Sichuan and Zhejiang provinces.

The focus is now on southern China, where hot weather is expected over the next 10 days, with temperatures rising above 40 deg C on Wednesday and Thursday (July 28), according to the China Meteorological Administration.

Officials in several areas have warned residents to stay inside when they can and limit physical exertion. A water park in Chongqing rented out ice buckets that tourists can sit in while they play mahjong.

The nation's power demand reached all-time highs in mid-July. It is expected that it will continue to rise through early August.

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