A power outage triggered by a record heat wave and severe drought has wrecked havoc in Sichuan, a province in southwestern China home to 80 million people.
Dry weather in southern China has caused massive hydroelectric dams to fail, forcing towns to impose rolling blackouts and increasing the country’s reliance on coal. A record-breaking drought and an 11-week heat wave are wreaking havoc on an area that relies on dams for more than three-quarters of its electrical supply. Factory shutdowns and logistical delays are impeding China’s efforts to revitalize its economy as President Xi Jinping prepares to run for a third term this autumn.
Due to a lack of power, car assembly plants and electronics companies in southern China have shuttered. Electric car owners are queuing overnight at charging stations to refuel their vehicles. Rivers are so low that ships can no longer transport goods. The Communist Party is already battling to reverse a recession in China, the world’s second largest economy, due by severe Covid restrictions and a sagging real estate market. Young people are having difficulty obtaining work, and residents are being compelled to save rather than spend, and to postpone purchasing new homes.
The severe heat is exacerbating the situation by disrupting electricity supply, endangering crops, and igniting wildfires. Reduced hydroelectric dam energy has pushed China to burn more coal, which contributes significantly to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
Many cities across the country have been obliged to implement rolling blackouts or reduce energy use. Several areas in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, were without power for more than ten hours a day.
For more than two months, China has been burned by a heat wave that has stretched from Sichuan in the southwest to the country’s eastern coast, with temperatures reaching 104 degrees on many days. Last Monday, the temperature in Chongqing, a sprawling southwest metropolis of roughly 20 million people, reached 113 degrees Celsius, the highest figure ever recorded in a Chinese city outside the western desert area of Xinjiang.
The scorching heat sparked wildfires in the mountains and woods on Chongqing’s outskirts, requiring thousands of firefighters and volunteers to put out the flames. Residents said that the air smelled strongly of acrid smoke.
The drought has caused dozens of rivers and reservoirs in the province to dry up, reducing Sichuan’s hydropower generation capacity by half and harming industrial activity. Volkswagen has been shuttered for the last week and a half at its large, 6,000-employee facility in Chengdu, while Toyota has also temporarily halted operations at its assembly plant.
Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics producer, and CATL, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicle batteries, have both reduced output at nearby sites.
The Yangtze River has reached the lowest level for this time of year at Ezhou, a city in central China near Wuhan, since records began in 1865. On August 19, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, People’s Daily, stated that the Yangtze River has dropped to the same average level it regularly reaches at the conclusion of the winter dry season.
Source: New York Times, CNN