November 15, 2017 / 5:35 AM / a year ago

China to tackle coal price gouging, ensure supplies in winter

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will strengthen price monitoring and regulation in the coal market over the coming winter season to ensure stable prices, the country’s state planner told a media conference on Wednesday.

“In the next step, we will conduct inspections in key regions and carry out direct checks in key enterprises, and will strictly investigate and prosecute all cases of price gouging and price monopoly,” said Meng Wei, spokeswoman at the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

Despite Beijing’s steadfast push to boost clean energy consumption, coal remains the country’s major source of power generation.

In September, some coal-fired power plants sent a plea to the NDRC asking for help with securing coal, as utilities in the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin were facing tight coal supplies as prices soared.

Thermal coal prices on the Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange have risen nearly 60 percent this year, touching a record high since the futures launched in 2015 at 658.6 yuan ($99.33) a tonne in mid-September.

“Generally, coal supply capacity will be sufficient during the heating season ... but factors that will affect coal supplies remain,” said Meng.

The NDRC said it will speed up the release of high-quality coal capacity to increase supplies and improve transportation capacity in major ports and utilities.

Heilongjiang has slashed targeted coal capacity cutbacks in order to ensure enough coal for the region’s utilities.

The so-called heating season in China’s northern regions runs for four months from mid-November to mid-March.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Beijing Newsroom; editing by Richard Pullin

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