China has ramped up its electricity imports from North Korea, Russia and Myanmar amid its worst power shortage in decades, customs data shows, although the increases do not offer an immediate solution to the nationwide crisis. Imports from North Korea increased by 62 per cent to 35,974 megawatt-hours (MWh) in September compared with the same period last year and by 37 per cent year on year to 291 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in the first three quarters of 2021. September’s imports were valued at US$1.5 million, while China spent US$11.9 million on electricity imports from North Korea in the first three quarters of the year. United Nations sanctions imposed on North Korea in 2017 have placed limited certain exports from the country, including coal, iron ore, food and agricultural products, but the electricity trade is not restricted. According to a 2013 research paper from the Northeast Electric Power University, China’s imported electricity from North Korea is transmitted via Dandong, a prefecture-level border city in Liaoning province. Liaoning province, along with Heilongjiang and Jilin in northeastern China, have taken the brunt of the nation’s power shortage with millions of industrial users and households suffering power blackouts since September. Russia, meanwhile, exported 2,381 GWh of electricity worth US$112.6 million to China in the first three quarters of 2021, marking a 1.3 per cent year on year increase. Earlier this month, Russia’s state energy company agreed to a request from the State Grid Corporation of China to double its electricity exports in the final three months of the year compared with the volumes sold last year, according to various reports. Inter RAO said the supply would be provided through all three Russia-China transmission lines that are capable of delivering up to 7 billion kilowatt-hours of electrical power a year. A power conversion station located in Heihe, a border city in Heilongjiang province, has also increased its full-load operating time from five hours to 16 hours per day to cope with the increasing electricity supply from Russia, according to CCTV. In the past 29 years since it started accepting electricity from Russia, China has imported a total of 30,000 GWh, with the power used in the three northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Heilongjiang and Jilin. Beijing draws up plans to ‘use of all necessary means’ to curb power crisis China’s power imports from Myanmar via the southwestern Yunnan province also increased by 44 per cent to 1,231 GWh in the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period in 2020, with the trade valued at US$34 million. The power is being generated by the Chinese-built Dapein (1) hydropower station located near Bhamo, a trading hub in northern Myanmar, according to people familiar with the matter. But despite the rising imports, China still handles most of its own power generation needs and imports only make up a small portion of the supply. In September, China generated 675,100 GWh of electricity domestically, compared to the 670.6 GWh it imported. China actually imports little electricity, because China’s own power generation capacity is actually huge, and electricity is a monopoly industry Hou Yunhe “China actually imports little electricity, because China’s own power generation capacity is actually huge, and electricity is a monopoly industry,” said Hou Yunhe, an associate professor at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong. China has also adopted a strategy of not buying large volumes of power due to security concerns, Hou added. “If the relationship with other countries goes bad, what if they suddenly cut the power supply?” he said. On Thursday, President Xi Jinping said that China “has to secure its energy supply in its own hands” during a tour of an oilfield in the eastern province of Shandong, according to the state-run People’s Daily newspaper .