Record cold weather in China sends power demand through the roof
Icicles at a park in Beijing, January 7, 2021. /CFP

Icicles at a park in Beijing, January 7, 2021. /CFP

Exceptionally cold weather sweeping through China has caused a huge increase in power demand in the world's largest energy consumer and hampered transportation.

Frigid weather across north Asia has caught utilities and liquefied natural gas importers off guard, as demand for power lowered inventories and pushed spot prices to record levels.

China's Central Meteorological Station released the first cold warning in 2021 earlier in the week in several regions. Cities such as the eastern port city of Qingdao recorded the lowest temperature in history and the capital city of Beijing had the coldest day since 1966 on January 7.

Since January 4, eleven provincial grid systems in China have seen peak power load hitting historic highs, according to China's State Grid (link in Chinese). 

The country's power load reached a record 960 million kilowatts on Thursday, a 27.7 percent year-on-year increase, said the State Grid. On the same day, the nation's power generation also broke the record with 25.967 billion kilowatt-hours.

China's industrial belt, where a stunning manufacturing recovery from the coronavirus pandemic boosted energy demand, experienced a temporary power crunch in the last cold snap in December.

Graphic by Reuters

Graphic by Reuters

"The [latest] historic peak load came as extreme cold weather increased demand for electricity-powered heating facilities, which account for 48.2 percent of total load," an official from the State Grid told a Chinese television on Thursday.

China has been replacing coal burning with gas- or electricity-fueled heating devices as part of a campaign to combat air pollution in its smog-prone northern regions.

The only remaining coal-fired power plant in Beijing, managed by state-backed China Huaneng Group as a backup power source, resumed operations two weeks ago in order to meet the surging electricity demand.

Gas demand also surged in northern parts of China, where gas is now a dominant heating fuel for more than 20 million homes, with prices touching multi-year highs last month even as the country imported record levels of LNG cargoes.

(With input from Reuters)

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