China's Sichuan halts power supply as heat waves and drought

China's Sichuan halts power supply as heat waves and drought

China's south-western province of Sichuan halted electricity supply to homes, offices and malls on Wednesday because of a severe power crunch caused by extreme heat waves and drought, according to state media and a power company.

The town of Dazhou, a city of 5.4 million people, was informed of rotating brownouts that last several hours, according to the official WeChat account of the state-owned Dazhou Power Group.

Residential brownouts are rare as China usually limits power supply to industries first to prioritize residential and commercial use in power squeezes.

In a front-line report, the provincial government-owned Sichuan Daily said on Wednesday that government offices were asked to set air conditioners to no lower than 26 degrees Celsius and use more staircases instead of lifts, in what appears to be an official call to conserve electricity use.

The paper said fountains, light shows and commercial activities are to be suspended during the night hours.

Sichuan, which relies on hydropower to generate 80 per cent of its power, ordered producers of lithium, fertilisers and other metals to shut plants or curb output amid the worst heatwave in 60 years.

Soaring temperatures and little rain this summer have reduced hydropower generation in the province of 83.75 million people, while increasing power demand for air conditioning.

If the heat wave persists, the power crunch could spill over to eastern provinces like Jiangsu and Zhejiang, which have relied on buying electricity from Sichuan, according to analysts.