Photo Credit: CNN
For over several weeks, in China, particularly in the province of Sichuan, record-breaking temperatures caused by heat waves have damaged businesses and communities. The southwestern province of China, which is home to more than 80 million citizens, is reeling from the effects of intense heat.
Due to this condition, the Chinese government has ordered the temporary closure of factories in Sichuan to save energy. Authorities have also taken other steps like shutting down power lines in subways and offices during designated periods, blackouts, and reduction in the use of air conditioning.
Consequently, the interventions caused major losses in the production of tech industries and even farms that rely on energy to keep their goods fresh. In extension, this will have a significant impact on global trade, experts say. In addition, neighboring cities like Chongqing and the provinces near the Yangtze River have started to see the effects of the changes implemented by the authorities in Sichuan.
China has always been proud of its economic diversity and richness. However, recent developments have shocked residents, who are already used to the lush lifestyle China provided these many years. The power cuts, for example, had reminded people of a time when China was not yet the economic hub that it is now.
Climate change that is affecting the nation has also made it worse for citizens and the country, as it threatens the planned economic growth of China.
“These so-called extreme weather events will have more impact on our lives and electricity supply. And perhaps we all need to reconsider whether these extreme events will become the new normal,” said a Greenpeace climate adviser, Li Shuo.
The Sichuan power crunch
Sichuan is a massive power source in China as it is located near the longest and largest river in China, the Yangtze. With the river’s waters’ active flow comes energy generated from hydropower energy plants. The plants have operated for decades and supplied the country with ample energy, powering cities, homes, and offices.
However, reservoirs along the river dried up when the temperatures spiked. The stations were affected, and thus the shortage of power began. As a result, the hydroelectricity capacity of Sichuan dropped by 50% this month. And this is expected to continue as heat waves continue.
“China’s electricity demand has been incredibly flat in the past because so much of it has come from the industry, not from households or services. Now with air conditioning becoming more common, the demand is becoming higher,” said the lead analyst from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland, Lauri Myllyvirta.
“At the same time, rains are becoming more errant. Heavy rains and periods of drought make hydropower much less reliable as a source of available capacity during those peaks.”
Big impact on the world
The response of China to its current energy crisis will impact the world. The country houses over 1.4 billion people; due to this, carbon dioxide emissions from the country account for 27% of global emissions. If the country sticks to the burning of coal to counter the crisis, climate conditions could go down south.
“There is a possibility that power shortages caused by future extreme weather events might become a new motivation for China to approve more (coal-fired power) projects,” Li said.
Meanwhile, Yu Aiqui, a researcher at the Global Energy Monitor, stated, “There is a possibility that power shortages caused by future extreme weather events might become a new motivation for China to approve more (coal-fired power) projects.”
However, analysts say that turning to coal is only temporary for China since the country desperately needs it. An energy consultant said, “Capacity doesn’t equal generation. The capacity being there creates a lot of optionality and flexibility for all these other (renewable energy sources) they’re building. For now, I see the coal capacity additions, as for the most part, targeted at being able to support wind and solar.”