Photo Credit: CNN
For several weeks, record-breaking temperatures caused by heat waves have harmed businesses and communities in China, particularly in the province of Sichuan. The southwestern province of China, home to more than 80 million people, is suffering from the effects of extreme heat.
Due to this situation, the Chinese government has mandated that factories in Sichuan temporarily shut down in order to conserve energy. Authorities have also taken additional measures, such as reducing air conditioning use and blackouts, and shutting down power lines in offices and subways during specified times.
As a result, the interventions led to significant production losses in the tech sector as well as farms that depend on energy to keep their produce fresh. Experts predict that this will also have a big effect on world trade. In addition, the effects of the adjustments made by the authorities in Sichuan are beginning to be felt in neighboring cities like Chongqing and the provinces near the Yangtze River.
China has always been proud of the variety and wealth of its economy. Residents, accustomed to the luxurious lifestyle China has offered for so long, have been shocked by recent events. For instance, the power outages served as a reminder of a time when China was not yet the economic powerhouse it is today.
As climate change threatens China’s planned economic growth, the situation for both the country and its citizens has gotten worse.
“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 Li Shuo, a Greenpeace climate adviser.
The power shortage in Sichuan
Due to its proximity to the Yangtze River, China’s longest and largest river, Sichuan is a significant energy source. Hydropower energy plants produce energy as a result of the river’s active flow. In addition, the factories have been in operation for many years, giving the nation ample energy to power its cities, residences, and workplaces.
However, as the temperature rose, reservoirs along the river dried up. The affected stations caused the power shortage to start. Sichuan’s hydroelectricity capacity decreased by 50% this month as a result. And as long as there are heat waves, this condition is expected to 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 Lauri Myllyvirta, the lead analyst from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Finland.
“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.”
The world could be impacted
The world will be impacted by China’s response to its current energy crisis. There are more than 1.4 billion people living there, making the nation produce 27% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Climate conditions could deteriorate if the nation continues to burn coal to combat the crisis.
“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 added.
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.”
Analysts contend that China’s reliance on coal, despite its urgent need for it, is only short-term. A consultant for energy 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.”
Opinions expressed by Texas Today contributors are their own.