Bad weather in China is hampering coal deliveries to power plants and has prompted the government to start rationing natural gas supplies in some regions.

Icy temperatures and heavy snowfall in early January forced the closure of around 4800 MW of generating capacity – equivalent to 0.5 per cent of China’s total generating capacity – because of problems with fuel deliveries.

Meanwhile, energy demand has spiked and supplies of natural gas to commercial and industrial users in Beijing are being rationed.

The regions worst affected by reduced coal supplies are the central Chinese provinces of Hunan, Hubei, Henan, Jiangxi and Sichuan, according to the State Grid Corp of China. Power rationing measures may be implemented if the pressure on the power supply system continues, says the utility.

Coal stockpiles at power plants have fallen since late December and data indicates that plants have enough for up to nine days’ consumption.

Some 80 per cent of China’s power plants are fuelled by coal, much of which comes from Shanxi province.

In January 2008 major snowstorms in China forced the closure of nearly 41 000 MW of generating capacity.