People in north eastern China ate breakfast by the light of smartphones and shopkeepers turned on generators as much of the country enforced power cuts Wednesday to meet official conservation targets and ease shortages in some areas.

In Shenyang, the northeast’s most populous city, restaurant owner Li Yufeng used a battery from an electric bicycle to run a pot for noodles after seeing a notice power would be switched off at 7.30 am Li said he started work two hours early, at 6am, to prepare chicken, sauces and other dishes.

News reports blame high coal prices they say make power companies reluctant to meet booming demand, while economists say the real motive is political  Officials are under pressure to curtail energy use to meet official targets.

Factories in China’s busiest manufacturing provinces have been ordered to suspend production for up to a week, prompting concern global supplies of smartphones and other goods might be disrupted. Now, urban neighborhoods are being blacked out, triggering pleas on social media for the government to solve the problem.

The cuts are “largely driven by energy consumption control measures, with power shortages affecting another few provinces,” Lara Dong of IHS Markit said in an email.

The Cabinet’s planning agency warned in August that 20 regions had exceeded energy use and pollution targets after manufacturing rebounded from the pandemic.

China is one of the world’s biggest emitters of climate-changing industrial gases and consumes more energy per unit of economic output than developed countries. Given its huge population, on a per capita basis it ranks much lower.

China also is preparing for the Winter Olympics in the capital, Beijing, and the nearby city of Shijiazhuang in February, a period when it will want clear blue skies.

The government of Guangdong province, China’s biggest manufacturing center, has cited both official energy use limits and low water levels in hydropower reservoirs that provide a big share of its electricity.

In Liaoning province, where Shenyang is the capital, the government said in a statement Sunday that power demand hit a record high in the first eight months of the year. It said Liaoning has suffered shortages since then due to a decline in wind power and other sources.

“As long as there is electricity we can sell things, unlike restaurants that need water,” said Yang. Yang didn’t know or care what the reason for the power outage was but said, “it’s understandable.



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