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Updated on: Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 11:31 PM IST

China: People switch to smartphone flashlights, generators amid power cuts

China: People switch to smartphone flashlights, generators amid power cuts | Photo: Unsplash

China: People switch to smartphone flashlights, generators amid power cuts | Photo: Unsplash

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Shenyang (China): People ate breakfast by the light of smartphones and shopkeepers turned on generators as cities across China enforced power cuts on Wednesday to meet official conservation targets and ease shortages in some areas.

News reports blame high coal prices they say make power companies reluctant to meet booming demand, while economists say the real motive is political: Officials are under pressure to curtail energy use to meet official targets.

In Shenyang, the northeast's most populous city, restaurant owner Li Yufeng used a battery from an electric bicycle to run a pot for noodles after seeing a notice power would be switched off at 7:30 am. Li said he started work two hours early, at 6 am., to prepare chicken, sauces and other dishes.

"There are some impacts, but not a big impact," said Li as customers ate by smartphone lights.

Factories in China's busiest manufacturing provinces have been ordered to suspend production for up to a week, prompting concern global supplies of smartphones and other goods might be disrupted. Now, urban neighbourhoods are being blacked out, triggering pleas on social media for the government to solve the problem.

China's power consumption is growing at almost double its usual rate, while the ruling Communist Party is trying to reduce energy intensity, or the amount used per unit of economic output.

The power cuts come as global leaders prepare to attend a UN environmental conference by video link on October 12-13 in the southwestern city of Kunming. That increases pressure on President Xi Jinping's government, as the meeting's host, to show it is sticking to emissions and energy efficiency targets.

The cuts are "largely driven by energy consumption control measures, with power shortages affecting another few provinces," Lara Dong of IHS Markit said in an e-mail.

"This is in line with China's decarbonisation ambitions," she said.

The power cuts "could be more disruptive than previous shortages," Bank of America has said in a report. Due to shortages in some areas, it said, "a relaxation of the government's energy consumption goals may not immediately alleviate the power crunch."

China also is preparing for the Winter Olympics in the capital, Beijing, and the nearby city of Shijiazhuang in February, a period when it will want clear blue skies.

Officials in Jiangsu province, a manufacturing hub northwest of Shanghai, told state media some cities there have used up 90 per cent of this year's quota for power use. The officials of the provincial planning agency were cited as saying individual city governments had to decide how to meet their targets.

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Published on: Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 11:31 PM IST
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