High temperatures and droughts reduced output from hydropower in Sichuan province, while the heat caused residential demand to soar. Continued power exports further exacerbated the supply shortage.
China’s Sichuan province in the country’s southwest experienced a severe power shortage this summer. Unlike the power shortage last year, which resulted from a shortage of coal, the causes of this power shortage are soaring power demand due to extremely high temperatures and a sharp fall in hydropower generation. The highest electricity load mounted to 65 GW, up by a quarter compared to the same period last year. Sichuan relies heavily on hydropower, which accounts for around 80% of its electricity. However, due to extremely high temperatures and drought, hydropower generation fell sharply from 90 TWh to 44 TWh compared to 2021, a drop of over 50%.
Contributing further to this year’s shortage was the immense amount of power locked in mid-to-long term export contracts. As the main base for the “Transferring Power from West to East” project, power from Sichuan accounted for two-thirds of the power consumption in Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. Even at times of power shortages, Sichuan cannot completely suspend power exports to eastern provinces. Imports from other provinces are also insufficient, as most transmission lines are designed for exporting power out of Sichuan, not for importing into the province.
“四川度电必争：水电锐减火电迎峰而上，电力入川通道满载运行,” The paper, 23 August 2022, at https://baijiahao.baidu.com/s?id=1741908052986966831&wfr=spider&for=pc.
Yuan Jiahai, “四川高温限电痛点在何处，如何防止重演？” The Intellectual, 6 September 2022, at https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/l_LQNe1aCtqflhaXqNAEaw.
Chen Xuewan and Fan Ruohong, “电力大考,” Caixin, 22 August 2022, at https://weekly.caixin.com/2022-08-19/101928366.html?p0#page2.