China steps up measures to deal with heat wave, power shortages

Chinese authorities have stepped up emergency measures to deal with extreme heat and a crippling drought in the country’s southwest that has forced cities to dim lights and left electric vehicle drivers struggling to recharge their cars.

A record-breaking, multi-month heat wave, with temperatures peaking at 43.4C in Chengdu on Sunday, drained rivers and dams in hydropower-dependent Hubei and Sichuan provinces.

The situation has had a cascading effect on electricity supplies in other parts of the country, just as the economy has been hammered by Beijing’s zero-Covid restrictions and a crisis in the housing sector.

Authorities in Sichuan have declared the event a “Level 1” emergency incident, the highest possible, and at least 50 mobile generators from other provinces have been dispatched to help stabilize the local power supply, it said. the State Grid Corporation of China.

Authorities have suspended power to a number of factories, forcing manufacturers such as Toyota and Foxconn to suspend operations in Sichuan, a province of 84 million people and a hub for oil mining. lithium and the production of solar panels.

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Lier Chemical, a Shenzhen-listed pesticide maker, said in a filing on Monday that local authorities had extended industrial power cuts until Thursday.

The cities of Chongqing and Chengdu ordered lights to be dimmed, and shopping malls and office buildings turned off bright outdoor advertising and suspended the use of elevators. Chengdu office workers have also been told to set their air conditioners to 27°C to reduce energy consumption.

Shanghai, which depends in part on hydropower from the region, announced over the weekend that it would suspend its famous daily light show on the Bund, the commercial building stretch of the waterfront, for two days.

Electric vehicle owners in Sichuan and Chongqing have also complained about the closure of charging stations. Tesla said only two of its 14 charging stations in Chengdu were open on Aug. 17.

“[I am] either charging my car or looking for an available charging battery,” an electric vehicle owner in the city wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging platform.

map showing the likelihood of low and high flows over the next four months in China.  Record summer heat waves and droughts have reduced water levels in some of the world's largest rivers to record lows

Extremely hot weather is expected to last the rest of the month, and analysts said high temperatures will put more pressure on the economy.

“With Covid restrictions. . . still a daily problem for the country. . . and a real estate sector undergoing critical rehabilitation, a black swan event occurred with a record two-month heat wave,” Jefferies analysts said.

“The drought has created a downward spiral as hydroelectric power becomes scarce, which in turn reduces power generation for industry.”

“Sichuan now faces the hottest temperatures and worst drought in 60 years, with hydro resources down 51%,” Morgan Stanley analysts Simon Lee and Leo Deng wrote in a note. research, adding that the government expected the situation to last. until the end of August.

They said 19 provinces were seeing record high electricity demand due to high temperatures.

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