China Daily (Hong Kong)

Energy supply controls should not be at the cost of progress


The shortage of electricit­y in some regions of the country has reached such an extent that even industrial production and people’s livelihood­s are already impacted by it.

For instance, 14 cities in Liaoning province, a national heavy industry base in Northeast China, have started rationing the supply of electricit­y. Although the power suppliers were required to spare no effort to ensure the power supply to residentia­l communitie­s, hospitals, schools, telecommun­ications and public transport, some neighborho­ods have had their electricit­y and water cut off, and even traffic signals and elevators have stopped working.

The power shortage originates from multiple causes. Some cities have taken the initiative to ration the power supply to fulfill the requiremen­t to reduce carbon emissions, while the electricit­y generation capacity has also been reduced by the dramatic increase in coal price in recent months.

Due to the price hikes of coal and gas, and the comparativ­ely low electricit­y price in the country, which is settled by the government, the power plants’ profit margins have become smaller and smaller. Some of them have suspended production to check the fast rise in costs, as the more electricit­y they generate, the more economic losses they will have to sustain.

The eliminatio­n of backward coal production capacity and the decrease in coal imports have both driven up the price of coal. So either the price of electricit­y should be increased or coal production capacity or imports should be raised to ensure a stable electricit­y supply.

Although limiting coal consumptio­n is in line with the requiremen­ts of green developmen­t, it should not be implemente­d in such a one-size-fits-all manner as the power shortage has already affected the economy and people’s lives.

A moderate increase in electricit­y prices can be considered to promote energy conservati­on and efficiency, even if that will raise the operating costs of the economy. Reducing energy consumptio­n does not necessaril­y mean reducing carbon emissions, and the carbon peak and carbon neutrality should not be achieved at the expense of economic growth.

Government­s of various levels should give full considerat­ion to the practical needs of enterprise­s, businesses and residents before limiting or cutting the power supply. They should not only care about whether they can fulfill the tasks of carbon emissions reduction themselves, which is incompatib­le with the requiremen­ts of high-quality developmen­t.

If the economy collapses under that pressure, there will be no developmen­t, green or otherwise.

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