In this region where the temperature can drop to – 20 ° C, the too rigid energy system does not respond to price fluctuations.
by Simon Leplâtre (Cangzhou, Hebei, sent special)
At the beginning of December, Mr. Jiang, in the thirties, moved into a new house barely finished. Its walls are still in raw cement and it is smaller than most of the houses in the village of Han, but it has a major advantage: the temperature greatly exceeds 20 degrees, while the pond is frozen in this village of the Cangzhou campaign, a city in the south of the province of Hebei surrounding Beijing.
in front of the house of M. Jiang, in the village of Han, near Cangzhou (Hebei), February 2, 2023. Wood is Used to power the kitchen stove and kang (stove). Gilles Sabrié for “Le Monde”
The secret of comfort is in the boiler room of this house built a year earlier: an old -fashioned cast iron stove, connected to the network of Hot water. In front, a bucket full of pieces of coal. “I moved here when the gas cuts started in early December,” said Jiang, who only gives his surname. In its old house, the temperature fell at night, when natural gas was cut by the distribution company.
But not everyone is lucky to have a second house where to go when the temperatures dropped: this winter, gas cuts have shone millions of people in northern China. From the end of December 2022, hundreds of complaints appeared on social networks but also on the websites of local governments. “Our village could not buy natural gas, we cannot heat up. There are elderly people who barely recover from covid and are still weak, and they freeze at home,” says a resident of A village in the Xingtai prefecture on the website of this city in the south of Hebei. “The transition from coal to gas is a good policy, but we, the countryside, cannot be heated normally,” writes another villager. Other testimonies evoke cuts from midnight to 6 o’clock every night, and sometimes in the middle of the day, while the outside temperature can drop up to less than 20 degrees.
increase in gas prices
The inhabitants of northern China are victims of a conjunction of factors: the war in Ukraine has raised the prices of gas, the zero covid policy has weighed on local finances, and a rigid energy system in China does not does not allow you to adapt to changes in demand. While Europeans, deprived of Russian gas, finally managed to spend winter without major shortages, thanks to reservations made up since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, it is ultimately China, which does not hesitate Not to provide gas to his Russian partner, who suffered from deficiencies. Because, despite its “limitless” friendship with Russia affirmed during the passage of Vladimir Putin to Beijing, in February 2022, China must pay gas at a high price: “China buys oil and Russian coal at a reduced price, But not gas. Russian gas is negotiated a little cheaper than the market price right now, but it is not particularly cheap, “observes Michal Meidan, director of the China program at the Institute for Oxford energy studies.
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/Media reports cited above.