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Power outages extend across China’s scorching southwest as drought, heat wave continue

Power outages extend across China's scorching southwest as drought, heat wave continue
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  • China declares 11th consecutive heat ‘red alert’
  • Sichuan has extended the ban on industrial energy use until August 25
  • Chongqing reduced the working hours of commercial places
  • The shortage could affect Tesla

SHANGHAI, Aug 22 (Reuters) – China’s scorched southwestern regions extended restrictions on electricity use on Monday as they coped with reduced hydropower production and increased household power demand during a prolonged drought and heat wave.

State weather forecasters issued a heat “red alert” for the 11th straight day on Monday, as extreme weather continued to wreak havoc with power outages and crop damage. They raised the national drought alert to “orange” – the second highest level.

Drought has already “severely affected” mid-season rice and summer maize in some southern regions, the agriculture ministry said on Sunday.

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The National Meteorological Center said 62 weather stations from Sichuan in the southwest to Fujian on the southeast coast saw record temperatures on Sunday. Conditions may improve from Wednesday as a cold front moves into China through Xinjiang.

The Chongqing region, which hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) late last week, announced that opening hours at more than 500 malls and other commercial venues would be shortened starting Monday to reduce electricity demand.

Malls on the list contacted by Reuters on Monday confirmed that they had received the government notification and would comply with the rules. The two hotels on the list said they were still operating normally but would limit the use of air conditioners.

In neighboring Sichuan province, a major hydropower generator, authorities extended existing restrictions on industrial electricity customers until Thursday, financial news service Caixin reported Sunday. Electricity production in Sichuan is only half of normal levels after water levels have dropped drastically.

Caixin cited battery industry organizations as saying that industrial power users in the cities of Yibin and Swining were asked to remain closed until Thursday.

Sichuan – a major electricity supplier to the rest of the country – recently opened a new coal storage base to allow its thermal plants to operate without interruption.

However, about 80% of its installed capacity is hydroelectric, making it particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in water supply.

Several companies confirmed on Monday that they are restricting output due to increased power supply constraints. Lear Chemical Company Ltd. is a pesticide manufacturer (002258.SZ) Monday confirmed that the restrictions will continue until Thursday.

Zincosolar (JKS.N)A major solar power equipment maker said its Sichuan production facilities were suspended as a result of power shortages, adding that it was “uncertain” how long the measures would last.

Toyota Motor Corporation (7203.T) China’s Sichuan plant slowly resumed operations on Monday using a power generator after suspending operations last week, a company spokesman said.

Several plants in Sichuan and Chongqing, including top battery maker CATL (300750.SZ) and electric vehicle giant BYD (002594.SZ)It has only been able to function partially in recent weeks due to power shortages

CATL’s Yibin plant makes battery cells for Tesla, sources familiar with the matter said (TSLA.O)And there were concerns that the disruptions could eventually affect the US automaker, even though production at its Shanghai plant remained unchanged.

Shanghai, criticized on China’s Twitter-like Weibo for its use of electricity produced in Sichuan, imposed its own usage restrictions on Monday, turning off decorative lighting for two days in the riverside Bund area and parts of the financial center of Lujiazui.

Firms will be encouraged to “freeze” electricity use to reduce peak loads, and some construction projects will be suspended, the official Shanghai Daily reported.

Important agricultural areas have warned of the impact on crops, with Henan province saying more than a million hectares of land have been affected by the drought so far.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, about 2.2 million hectares were affected across the Yangtze basin.

Poyang Lake, located in one of the Yangtze River’s flood plains and described as China’s “kidney” because of its role in regulating water supplies, is now 67% smaller than the average over the past 10 years, state broadcaster CCTV said.

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Reporting by David Stanway and Zhang Yan in Shanghai, Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing; Additional reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill, Gerry Doyle and Susan Fenton

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