* Hubei likely to ration power as generation not enough
* Jiangxi already on power curbs since March 29
* Henan, Anhui forecast summer power shortages
* Coal prices and supplies, water stocks curbing output
* Reported power price hike a small relief to generators
By Jim Bai and Tom Miles
BEIJING, April 18 Central China's Hubei province
has joined a growing list of regions facing coal shortages, with
a warning on Monday that it is very likely to start rationing
power this month if coal supplies remain tight and low water
stocks continue to curb hydropower generation.
China has warned that power shortages this summer could be
the worst for years, with power generation and transmission
systems unable to cope with rising demand. The east, north and
south of China are likely to be hit the hardest. [ID:nL3E7FF1A2]
Some central and southwestern Chinese provinces, however,
have also begun feeling the pinch because their hydropower
plants are wilting after a lack of rainfall.
Coal inventories in thermal power plants in regions with
little of their own coal are dwindling due to pricing and
transportation issues. Chinese thermal coal prices hit a three
month high last week as power producers scrambled for summer
Coal inventories in thermal power plants in Hubei have
fallen by 17,000 tonnes a day to 1.66 million tonnes on April
12, producing an even more serious shortage than last winter, a
report on the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration
Commission website (www.sasac.gov.cn) showed. The report was
sourced from the State Grid Corp of China, the country's main
power grid operator.
Given the high price of coal, most coal-fired power plants
are taking a wait-and-see approach to purchases in hope that
prices might fall, the report said.
Coal consumption also increased in Henan, the province that
supplies most coal to Hubei, which in turn cut the amount
available for Hubei.
Water levels in major hydropower plants in Hubei, except for
the huge Three Gorges dam, were lower than historical averages
after expected March rains did not come, the report added.
The local grid operator in central Henan has forecast 4.9
gigawatts of summer power shortages in the province.
Power use restrictions have been in force since March 29 in
central Jiangxi province.
Power shortages in Jiangxi, once a seasonal phenomenon, have
become the norm, the China Electric Power News reported on
Maximum power demand in Jiangxi, home to China's top copper
producer Jiangxi Copper , was expected to
top 14.5 GW, but available on-grid power generation capacity
totals only 10 GW, the newspaper report said.
Eastern Anhui province may face a 2.5 GW power deficit this
summer, Anhui Economic and Information Technology Commission
said in a report on its website on Monday (www.aheic.gov.cn).
Coal stocks in Sichuan have fallen to less than a quarter of
their highest levels though the southwestern province has
temporarily managed to avoid instituting
China was reported to have increased power tariffs to help
generating firms to cope with rising costs of coal, the fuel
that is burned to generate about 80 percent of power output, but
the government has not made any official announcement.
The reported price hike would only bring small relief to
power generating firms and would not lift generating margins
noticeably, some analysts and industry officials said.
(Editing by Michael Urquhart)