Dry spell triggers energy shortage
JOSEPHINE MA in Lanzhou
Gansu province, one of China's largest power suppliers, is facing a shortage of two billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) this year.
Gansu vice-governor Guo Kun said the shortage was caused by a prolonged dry spell which lowered water levels in the Yellow River, the source of power for numerous hydro-electric stations in northwestern provinces Qinghai and Gansu.
A lack of new power projects over the past two years exacerbated the shortage.
'The shortage is only temporary,' Mr Guo said.
'The Yellow River does not have enough water for the hydro-electric stations this year.
'We had no new projects in the past two years but the power demand increased with the development of the non-ferrous metal industry here.' He said the shortage would easily be filled with the expansion of several thermal nuclear power plants next year.
Hydro-electric giant Liujiaxia, which contributes a quarter of the electricity generated in Gansu, was the first to feel the dry spell pinch.
The station, with an installed generating capacity of 1.225 million kilowatts, expects a much lower generation level of 4.7 billion kWh this year, from last year's 5.1 billion kWh. It generated 5.8 billion kWh in 1994.
The second largest hydro-electric power station in China also suffered from deterioration of equipment installed in the 1960s.
Liujiaxia power plant official Qin Desheng said the plant intended to renew its five generators and expand the generating capacity by 30,000 kW each over the next five years. The renewal would enhance the water use level and no extra water would be needed.
It has already spent 30 million yuan (about HK$27.9 million) renewing one of its generators with an installed capacity of 250,000 kW.
The renewal of another 300,000 kW generator was expected to be completed by next year with imported equipment from the United States, France and Austria.
Renewing the generator, the only one using imported technology, would cost 300-400 million yuan, Mr Qin said.
Renewal of the remaining three generators, expected to use domestic equipment, has not yet been approved by the state.
Mr Qin said the renewal was essential as the plant had been spending about 20 million yuan per year maintaining the generators.
The power plant plans to use a tributary of the Yellow River, the Tao River, to generate power and reduce sediment from the Tao clogging the plant.
Mr Qin said Vice-Premier Zhu Rongji was concerned over the sedimentation of the Tao River during a visit in July.
The 700 million yuan project is yet to be approved by the State Planning Commission.