Worsening power shortages are likely to stall economic development in half the country's provinces in the near future, Chinese authorities have said.
Beijing hopes the new Three Gorges Dam will help the shortfall
Increased industrial output, lower electricity prices and greater usage of appliances such as air conditioners have contributed to the severe shortage, officials told the state China Daily newspaper.
A report by the National Power Network Company said China's demand for electricity was expected to increase by at least 9% this year, the paper said.
The insufficient supply of power will continue next year, when China will be an estimated 15m kilowatts short, the report said.
Among the regions expected to be hit hardest are southern and eastern China, which have been undergoing rapid economic development.
Gao Shixian, branch director of China's Energy Research Institute, said part of the problem was that supply had exceeded demand during 1996 and 1997, leading to the cancellation of plans for more power plants.
But since then, demand had increased, partly as a result of the improvement of the electricity network in rural areas and a fall in prices, he said.
The Chinese Government has now approved the construction of 13 new large-scale power plants, which will have a total electricity-generating capacity of 11.9m kilowatts, according to the China Daily.
Their construction will begin by 2005, the report said.