China's scorching southwest extends power curbs as drought, heatwave linger

China's scorching southwest extends power curbs as drought, heatwave linger

SHANGHAI, Aug 22 (Reuters) - China's scorched southwestern regions extended curbs on power consumption on Monday as they deal with dwindling hydropower output and surging household electricity demand during a long drought and heatwave.

State weather forecasters issued a heat "red alert" for the 11th consecutive day on Monday, as extreme weather continues to play havoc with power supplies and damage crops. They also raised the national drought alert to "orange" - the second-highest level.

The drought has already "severely affected" mid-season rice and summer corn in some southern regions, the ministry of agriculture said on Sunday.

The National Meteorological Center said as many as 62 weather stations, from Sichuan in the southwest to Fujian on the southeastern coast, recorded record temperatures on Sunday. The situation could improve starting Wednesday as a cold front moves into China via Xinjiang.

The region of Chongqing, which hit temperatures of 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 ease power demand.

Two malls on the list contacted by Reuters on Monday confirmed that they had received the government notice and would abide by the new opening hours. Two hotels on the list said they were still operating normally but were restricting air conditioner use.

In neighbouring Sichuan province, a major hydropower generator, authorities also extended existing curbs on industrial power consumers until Aug. 25, financial news service Caixin said on Sunday. Power generation in Sichuan is at just half the normal level.

It cited firms in the battery industry as saying that industrial power users in the cities of Yibin and Suining had been told to remain closed until Thursday.

A Sichuan-based pesticide producer, Lier Chemical Co Ltd 002258.SZ , confirmed in a notice on Monday that output restrictions at two of its production bases in the province would continue until Aug. 25.

Several plants in Sichuan and Chongqing, including those of top battery maker CATL and the electric vehicle giant BYD, have been only able to partially operate in recent weeks because of power shortages.

Industry sources said the situation remained fluid and they had yet to see any substantial impact on the auto supply chain, though there was some concern over how the heatwave was affecting sales.

Shanghai, which was criticised on China's Twitter-like Weibo service for its use of electricity generated in Sichuan, imposed its own consumption restrictions on Monday, turning off decorative lighting on the riverside Bund area and parts of the financial centre of Lujiazui for two days.

Firms will be encouraged to "stagger" power consumption to reduce peak loads. Some outdoor construction projects will be suspended, the official Shanghai Daily said.

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

About 2.2 million hectares across the Yangtze basin have been affected, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
Reporting by David Stanway in Shanghai and Martin Pollard in Beijing; Additional reporting by the Beijing newsroom; Editing by Kim Coghill and Gerry Doyle