Power lines in Chengdu. Photo by Michal Pachniewski.
Chengdu broke a city record this past Monday. The historic moment arrived at 11:27 a.m. on July 21, when, according to Sichuan Online the load to the city's power grid hit an unprecedented 5.01 million kilowatt hours. The daily load also hit a record high of 90.65 kilowatt hours.
Given that the city's power grids are already running at near-maximum capacity, the increasing electricity consumption trend in Chengdu has led the city's Power Bureau to declare a state of high alert and create contingency plans for anticipated future peaks.
The temperature in Chengdu reached a peak 35 degrees on Sunday, July 20, with an average humidity of 72 percent. While that's been the hottest day so far this summer, weather forecasters predict that temperatures will exceed that number in the coming month, creating a likely scenario for repeated strains on the power grid. The forecast for tomorrow's high is 35 degrees.
Due in part to damage from last May's major quake and successive aftershocks as well as repeated damage from construction mishaps, once power lines or other equipment malfunctions due to excess load, a forced power cut will be difficult to avert, cautions the bureau.
As a result, the Chengdu Power Bureau is calling on the public to set the temperature of air-conditioning units 1 degree higher, and preferably run them no cooler than 26 degrees.
Every 1-degree increase in an air-conditioning unit's temperature will reportedly reduce electricity consumption by 130,000 to 150,000 kWh an hour, conserving 3 million kWh a day. Chengdu Electric Power Bureau appealed to offices, work units, shopping malls, hotels, and residents to take the initiative to conserve electricity in an effort to avoid imposed blackouts.
Such potential blackouts are aimed mainly at energy-gobblers such as factories, says the bureau. When power cuts in residential areas are necessary, the energy department has a history of inconsistently issuing advance warnings.
Energy-consumption all-time highs are being reported all over the country this year, including in Jiangsu and Guangdong provinces. Cities such as Huzhou, Changzhou, Jiujiang, Zhuzhou, and Weifang have also reported high usage.
While Chengdu runs behind other Chinese cities such as "the furnace city" Wuhan in percentage of households with air-conditioning units, and statistics on energy consumption are notoriously difficult to obtain, one distinction between Chengdu and regions such as the Pearl River and Changjiang Deltas is that the latter regions' energy consumption relates to their economical reliance on manufacturing, while Chengdu's does not.
No appeals apart from turning down AC units have been made by any authorities, common-sense conservation efforts include turning off lights, computers, and electric water heaters when not in use.