“It’s getting extremely difficult”: climate crisis forces China to ration electricity | China
Jthere were still streetlights on the Bund, one of the main thoroughfares in central Shanghai. But the decorative lights that illuminate the city’s skyline – blue, pink and red – were turned off for two days to cope with peak electricity demand.
The power restriction imposed by city authorities was the first in Shanghai, China’s financial hub. But across the rest of the country, similar restrictions have been put in place, as cities, especially in the southwestern region, grapple with ongoing power shortages caused by devastating droughts this summer.
In Sichuan, a high-level energy emergency alert has been issued to address the province’s power shortages, a first in the province’s history: The alert means residents will be given priority for electricity. electricity supply. Sichaun is known for its abundant hydroelectric power, which provides 80 percent of its electricity, and is a vital link in China’s vast west-to-east power transfer project.
But the region has been hit by record temperatures not seen in 60 years. As the water in the region’s rivers drops to historic lows, hydroelectric plants produce only half the energy they produced at this time last year.
Sichuan had already imposed blackouts at all factories, and international companies had to shut down production, while coal-fired power plants are all at full capacity.
But even so, cities around Sichuan are struggling to meet growing electricity demands from residential communities, with people’s daily lives heavily affected. In Dazhou, residents of one community complain that the power supply was cut off for 6-7 hours a day for nearly a week, leaving many people to flock to a nearby bridge in the evening to beat the sweltering heat of summer, according to Jiupai News.
Private business owners are also being hit hard as power supply is rationed between communities and shopping malls. In Chengdu, a restaurant owner complained about TikTok’s Chinese equivalent, Douyin, saying, “It’s getting extremely difficult for us in the food and beverage industry this year. We barely got through Covid restrictions earlier this year and now we are hit with a power shortage. »
“We were looking forward to July and August, which are usually high season for us, but it all seems like a pipe dream now.”
The disruptions are felt across the country, with cross-regional business activities and supply chains being impacted in a variety of ways. The price of raw materials such as silicon metal has risen due to supply restrictions, and the shortage of auto parts in Shanghai is causing growing concerns for companies such as Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and Tesla.
Meanwhile, cities like Chongqing, Luzhou in Sichuan and Chishui in Guizhou, all in the vast southwestern part of China, are also battling wildfires caused by lack of rain and extreme heat.
In Chongqing alone, between August 18 and 21, at least five wildfires were reported in districts including Jiangjin, Dazu, Tongliang, Ba’nan and Nanchuan, adding more woes to the already strained government. .
Droughts have also caused problems for farmers, with nearly 200,000 head of cattle on Sichuan farms running out of clean water. About 433,000 hectares (1,069,966 acres) of crops were affected by water shortages, resulting in direct economic loss of 3.5 billion yuan, according to data released by Sichuan emergency management authorities.
Like China, countries in the northern hemisphere are experiencing unprecedented heat waves and droughts this year, once again reminding the world of the harsh reality of climate change.
Surfing on the tides of the current crisis, calls for greater awareness of this immense global challenge are multiplying on Chinese social networks. On Twitter-like social media platform Weibo, a hashtag called “Help Earth Reduce 1°C”, which was launched by Chinese NEV giant BYD, has gained more than 120 million views.
In its description, the company calls on the public to pay more attention to global warming. The hashtag has since been reposted by state-run media accounts, including the People’s Daily and the Xinhua News Agency.
Others warn that extreme weather events are likely to remain commonplace for the near future, calling for concerted efforts across industries to deal with them effectively.
“Around the world, extreme weather conditions with high and even very high temperatures are likely to occur frequently over the next decade or longer in the future. Judging by the situation this year, I don’t think people have a full idea of the impact such weather can have on our production activities and lives. Xu Xiaofeng, former deputy director of China Meteorological Administration, said in an interview with National Business Daily.
“Only by strengthening coordination between various industries and deepening our knowledge of climate change can we find effective adaptation measures.”
Yet, with Sichuan leading the way in reliance on coal power as an immediate solution amid the current electricity crisis, it remains to be seen how China will strike a balance between ensuring normal electricity use and reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2060.
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