Electricity shortages will remain severe this year, although last year's large-scale power cuts will be replaced by 'seasonal and periodical blackouts', according to the mainland's top electricity regulator.
Shao Bingren , vice-minister of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, said 24 provinces experienced power shortages last year and were expected to face the same problem in coming months.
'Although the area affected will not shrink, the extent of the power shortage will ease. Generally speaking, large-scale power shortages which took place last year will be replaced by seasonal and periodical cuts.'
The shortfall in electricity supply was 30,000 megawatts last year, he added. Earlier reports indicated a shortfall of between 23,000MW and 25,000MW.
But he predicted the problem would be solved by the end of next year when more power plants had started operation and more efficient use of power by industries had been achieved.
The government has introduced measures to peg electricity tariffs to coal prices from this year. If coal prices increase by 5 per cent or more within six months, power companies can raise prices for industrial enterprises accordingly.
Residential users, farmers and small and medium-sized fertiliser factories have been exempted from the increase, Mr Shao said.
He added that the government would mainly target industries with low efficiency and high energy consumption when increasing electricity prices.
Mr Shao said the government was also trying to stop intermediaries from raising coal prices artificially, which can account for 50 to 70 per cent of prices paid by buyers.
He added that the amount of new power-generating capacity to be installed this year would be no less than the 60,000MW installed last year, although he would not estimate the precise capacity of the new generators.
However, Mr Shao also expressed concern over the rush to build new power plants, saying it had 'plunged into disorder'. He did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, the chief engineer of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, Yu Xinyang , said it was unlikely the mainland would have a massive blackout such as the one that struck the United States in August 2003, because different power grids were managed under a centralised regulatory body which could reallocate power between different grids in case of blackouts.
Professor Yu visited the US two months after the blackout. He said a contingency plan for such an event, however unlikely, would be issued by the State Council soon.