BEIJING (AFX-ASIA) – China suffered large-scale power shortages in 2003 as the country struggled with a lack of electrical generators and the demands of its power-hungry economy, Xinhua reported.

Over the past 17 months, China’s electric power supply was far short of demand, the agency said.

A report released by the State Development and Reform Commission showed that China lacked nearly 10 million kilowatts of electricity in 2003, and that the electricity strain will linger throughout 2004, Xinhua said.

Mao Xun, vice-president of Beijing Guohua Electricity Corp, a major electricity generating enterprise, also said an inadequate supply of power generating equipment was partially responsible for the shortages, the report said.

China will invest a record 18.8 billion yuan this year in revamping the nation’s eastern power grid in an effort to relieve growing power shortages in the booming coastal areas, Xinhua reported earlier. (US$1=8.27 yuan).

To ease the shortage, East China Power Grid Corp plans to merge the southeastern Fujian power grid into its own and put 23 generating units, with a total capacity of 7.79 million kilowatts, into operation in 2004, the agency said.

The eastern region contributes one third of the country’s economic strength, but consumes just a fifth of the power supply, the report said.

Since 2000, the East China Power Grid has run at full capacity, but in the summer of 2003, the region suffered the worst power shortage in history.

With China’s GDP chugging along at an 8.5% growth rate in 2003, power consumption rose by over 15.5% in the first nine months of last year, the State Grid Corp reported earlier.

China’s electricity consumption will grow to 2,091 billion kilowatt-hours in 2004, up 207 billion kilowatt-hours over 2003, the state-run corporation said.