Power Outages Loom in China in 2012

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | February 7, 2012 12:05 PM EST

China is likely to experience power supply outages this year, with a shortage estimated to reach up to 40 million kilowatts (kW) compared from 30 million kW in 2011, driven by a supply shortage of the raw commodity coal.

The China Electricity Council (CEC) last week said the electric power consumption requirements of the world's second-largest economy in 2012 will reach 514 trillion kW hours, up by 9.5 per cent from a year ago. However, this translated to a

Based on data from the National Energy Administration, China used up a total of 4.69 trillion kW hours of electricity in 2011, an 11.7 per cent growth over 2010. Power used by the primary industries, including agriculture, livestock husbandry, forestry and fisheries, among others, reached 101.5 billion kWh, a 3.9 per cent uptick from last year. In the second industries that include manufacturing, water and electricity production, among others, power consumption grew by 11.9 per cent to 3.52 trillion kWh. Tertiary industries comprised by services, insurance, and hotels, among others, reached 508.2 billion kWh, a 13.5 per cent growth, while power used by households and of urban and township residents touched 564.6 billion kWh, up 10.8% year over year.

To manage the escalating power crisis scenario, it is imperative China ensures that local production primarily support domestic requirements. Its coal sector must increase its coal production and imports, as well as restrict exports of the raw commodity, the CEC said.

The CEC forecast coal usage by the country's many power plants will grow 150 million tonnes in 2012. This would mean generating new coal supplies of more than 300 million tonnes in the domestic market, the council said in a report on its website.

Moreover, CEC urged government to approve the construction of more coal transport railways and power transmission lines to facilitate immediate transfer of the raw commodity to the power plants. It likewise proposed controlling the price of coal shipped to power plants. Raising electricity prices must also be done in a timely manner, the council noted.

It likewise predicted the country's power generating capacity will jump by 85 GW to 1,140 GW by year-end 2012.

China, which exported a total of 14.66 million tonnes of coal in 2011 mainly to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, also overtook Japan as the world's largest coal importer for the first time in 2011. China imported a record 182.4 million tonnes of the black hydrocarbon, compared to Japan's 175.2 million tonnes.

Nearly half of its coal production of more than 3.2 billion tonnes is burned by its own power plants.

In November, China said it is ready to resume the construction of nuclear power plants in the first half of 2012 after a suspension following Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011.

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