Southern China swelters, power grids struggle under ‘relentless’ heatwaves

  • Hot weather arrives sooner than normal in southern China
  • Temperatures to be 1-2 degrees higher than year ago in June – official
  • High temperatures spur demand for air-conditioning, test power grids

BEIJING, June 2 (Reuters) – Heatwaves tormenting parts of southern and eastern China are set to persist through June, putting power grids under strain as air conditioners are turned on full blast at homes, offices and factories in mega-cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen.

In the next three days, most of southern China is expected to suffer temperatures of more than 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), with temperatures in some areas exceeding 40C, national forecasters said on Friday.

Extreme hot weather beset China, like many part of Asia in recent weeks, even before summer arrived.

In the southern city of Shenzhen, it was 33C on Friday, but the humidity made it feel far hotter, especially for a couple toiling alone on a construction site under the sun.

“It’s hot, but there’s nothing to be done, we’ve got to make money for the family,” Zhao told Reuters as he laid bricks, while Yang, his wife, swept up rubble.

“Our bosses haven’t been pushing other workers to return from lunch sooner, as several of us have been hospitalised for heatstroke,” Zhao said.

Some parts of Shenzhen suffered intermittent power outages at the start of the week, but according to local media, less than 2,000 households were affected in the city of more than 17 million people.

On Monday, Shanghai, in eastern China, endured its hottest day in May in more than a century, while provinces in the south have had little respite from the heatwaves.

“I’m not surprised that they are occurring, and not surprised that they are worse. But how they are occurring – it’s just been week on week on week of these records being shattered,” said Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist with the University of New South Wales.

“It’s just relentless.”


Demand for electricity in southern manufacturing hubs, including Guangdong, has surged in recent days, with China Southern Power Grid, one of the country’s two grid operators, seeing peak power load exceeding 200 million kilowatts – weeks earlier than normal and close to historical highs.

In recent days, the power load in Hainan rose above 7 million kW for the first time, and also hit record highs in Guangxi, according to state media reports, with further rises expected in other southern provinces including Yunnan and Guizhou in coming days.

Mei, owner of a massage parlour in Shenzhen, lamented that she was already having to turn on the air-conditioning.

“Normally it gets hot gradually in June, but this year has been really sudden,” she said, declining to give her full name. “It’s around 1,000 yuan ($145) a month to run, but customers need it.”

Nationwide temperatures this month will about the same as a year earlier, but in parts of the Yangtze River delta, including Shanghai, as well as parts of southwest China, such as Sichuan and Yunnan, temperatures will be 1-2 degrees higher, Gao Rong, deputy director of the National Climate Centre, told a press conference on Friday.

In the summer of 2022, extreme heat in China pushed authorities to ration power use. Hydropower output, key in giant provinces such as Sichuan, was also hit due to prolonged drought-like conditions.

Powerful convection weather has also wreaked havoc in central China in recent weeks, with protracted downpours and even hail devastating the country’s ongoing wheat harvest. In Henan province, known as the granary of China, moderate to heavy rains are expected to continue till at least June 4.

($1 = 6.9121 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Ryan Woo; Additional reporting by Qiaoyi Li in Beijing and David Stanway in Singapore; Editing by Michael Perry and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.