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March 27, 2017

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Severe cold snap triggers shortage in coal heartland

BEIJING -- China's coal-rich Shanxi Province faced its most severe power shortage in three years as severe cold weather continued to drive up national electricity demand, state media reported Saturday.

The northern province was rationing electricity as two major coal-fired electricity plants in the capital Taiyuan saw their coal reserves fall below the seven-day supply warning level, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Shanxi is China's coal heartland, the biggest producer of a fossil fuel that provides 70 percent of the Asian nation's fast-growing energy needs and home to many coal-burning power plants. But the province now faces shortages because of falling production and having to export large amounts of coal to other parts of China, Li Jianwei, an official with the province's electricity association was cited as saying.

Taiyuan has ordered rotating shutdowns for more than 40 factories to ensure residences have enough power, the report said. A spate of deadly mine accidents has forced officials in Shanxi to close thousands of small mines.

Coal production has fallen because of the closures and large-scale state-owned plants have not been able to keep pace with demand, Li was quoted as saying. As power demand strains power grids, several provinces and regions have begun rationing electricity or imposed other restrictions, state media reported, although few details of the measures were given.

Agriculture ministry officials said Wednesday food prices were rising as transportation problems crimped delivery and the cold weather damaged crops.

China has endured an unusually early and cold winter, reaching its height over the past week with heavy snow across the north of the country and rare snowfalls further south.

Beijing experienced its heaviest snowstorm in decades last weekend, and Wednesday's low of minus 16.7 degrees Celsius (two degrees Fahrenheit) was the lowest in the capital since 1971.

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