Residents in several cities across China’s southern Guangzhou province have reported power outages over the past few weeks, with some blaming the electricity cuts on Beijing’s recent ban on Australian coal imports, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Monday.
Guangzhou cities including Shenzhen, Foshan, Dongguan, Zhuhai, and the Baiyun district of the provincial capital, also named Guangzhou, have experienced temporary power outages recently, according to RFA. In its report, the U.S. government-funded broadcaster cited photos and videos posted to Chinese social media platforms such as Weibo allegedly showing parts of the cities in near-total darkness. The blackouts affected Guangzhou cities most recently on December 21 around midnight.
The Guangdong Power Supply Bureau issued a statement on Monday addressing the outages. It blamed “equipment failure” for recent gaps in electricity service in the Guangdong areas of Sanyuanli and Luochongwei.
“Full power was restored to the grid after an hour, following emergency repairs,” the statement read.
A Guangzhou resident contacted China Southern Power Grid about the blackouts and was told that “the grid has faulted,” according to Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper on Monday.
“Apart from facilities including hospitals, elder homes, and school dormitories, some mobile networks were also disrupted as the transceiver stations also experienced power cuts,” the newspaper reported. Water supplies in some provincial districts were also affected by the outages.
A resident of Guangzhou’s Baiyun district surnamed Zeng spoke to RFA on Monday about the recent blackouts.
“After no outages for 10 years, suddenly this is happening again,” he said.
“The reason in this case is that coal supplies are too scarce, and aren’t enough [to meet demand],” Zheng claimed.
“I heard that they [Chinese state power plants] are unable to generate enough electricity,” he added.
China recently halted imports of coal from Australia amid an escalating trade war between the two countries sparked by Canberra’s support of an independent inquiry into the origins of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in April.
Beijing announced its formal ban on Australian coal following a meeting between China’s National Development and Reform Commission and ten Chinese power companies on December 12, China’s state-run Global Times reported. The commission allegedly gave its approval to the power plants to import coal “without clearance restrictions, except for Australia, in a bid to stabilize coal purchase prices.”
While the ban ostensibly reduces the price of coal for China’s state-linked power companies, many observers view the embargo as a way to punish Australia’s $10.5 billion coal export industry.
“The coal mining sector employs 46,000 Australians, with the export value of Australian thermal and metallurgical coal to China worth $14 billion [AUD, about $10.5 billion USD] a year,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation noted on December 15.