The Three Gorges Dam will begin producing hydroelectric power this month, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. The first recipients will be Shanghai and other cities on the east coast. Engineers had planned to put one generator into operation on August 1 and another on August 20. Two more will start operation later this year, one in October and one in November. The power will help meet demand in the Yangtze River Delta area during the peak summer period, media reported. The eastern city of Changzhou has just built a two billion yuan (HK$1.9 billion) switching station to help transfer the power from Hubei province, the site of the dam, officials said. Xu Hang, deputy manager of the State Power Corp's East China division, was quoted as saying Shanghai faced a 1 million-kilowatt power shortfall this summer and the dam would help make up some of the deficit. The east China power network will take 2.62 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity from the Three Gorges project this year, with Shanghai accounting for more than 40 per cent, he said. Planners say the dam will produce 5.5 billion kilowatt-hours of power this year. Financial analysts say guaranteed off-take and fixed tariff rates will ensure a market for electricity produced by the dam. Critics of the project say it will fail to generate power cheaply or reliably. Last month builders flooded the reservoir behind the dam and put the permanent shiplock into use. In the final phase of construction, due for completion in 2009, engineers will put 26 power turbines into operation. The project is expected to produce 84.7 billion kilowatt-hours of power a year by 2010.