China: Accionistas da EDP e REN “nadam” em corrupção
As chinesas State Grid e Three Gorges Corp, grandes accionistas da REN e da EDP, estão a revelar-se enormes antros de corrupção, a uma escala dificilmente imaginável. A dimensão da “epidemia” é tal que, além de afastar os altos responsáveis das duas empresas (após auditorias cujos resultados seguem para tribunal…), Pequim pondera “reestruturar” todo o sector de produção e de distribuição de energia eléctrica de modo a garantir o seu funcionamento… Na State Grid Corporation of China, segundo revela Stratfor, “The audit revealed the misappropriation of more than $1.1 billion between April and July of 2013 through theft and irregularities in contracts on construction and operation of the planned West-East Electricity Transfer Project. (…) Recent events indicate a more comprehensive push to clean up China’s energy and power sector. In March, the government dismissed the chairman of major state-owned hydroelectric dam operator China Three Gorges Corp. on corruption charges. Beijing then removed the deputy head of the National Energy Administration at the end of May on similar charges.”
Chinese workers checking power lines in Haikou on April 22, 2012.(Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
On June 16, China’s National Audit Office released the results of a probe launched May 1 into state-owned power company State Grid Corporation of China and its southern counterpart, China Southern Power Grid. The audit revealed the misappropriation of more than $1.1 billion between April and July of 2013 through theft and irregularities in contracts on construction and operation of the planned West-East Electricity Transfer Project. The results of the investigation came only a month after State Grid announced Beijing’s imminent approval of the ambitious and controversial project, which aims to build 12 cross-country ultra-high voltage lines linking China’s resource-rich western regions to central and coastal urban centers. The results of the audit illustrate the challenge corruption poses to Beijing’s long-term development and reform plans, especially as they relate to energy.
So far, Beijing has not brought any formal charges against State Grid, China Southern Power Grid or individuals in either company. However, following the May 1 audit announcement, reports surfaced in regional media that the probe would focus on records from the tenure of State Grid Chairman Liu Zhenya, who was allegedly indirectly responsible for the irregularities. The audit’s scope supports these rumors — Liu became chairman in May 2013, during the period examined in the government audit. This focus suggests that Beijing could take punitive measures in the coming months against Liu or other senior-level executives under his command.
The National Audit Office’s findings draw on investigations into 21 projects under the umbrella of the West-East grid plan. These revealed a number of irregularities in the bidding on construction contracts, including one instance in which China Southern Power Grid issued 40 contracts worth 1.4 billion yuan ($225 million) for work on transmission lines between Guizhou and Guangdong provinces without holding an open bidding process. Altogether, the audit office estimated that such irregularities totaled 16 percent of the value of all contracts established during the period in question.
The audit results could mark the start of a deeper probe into State Grid and other nodes in China’s electricity supply chains as well as corresponding reforms. Reformers inside and outside of Communist Party leadership have called numerous times over the past decade for the breakup of State Grid’s near-monopoly on China’s power transmission networks. In response, the central government has maintained a cautious attitude toward State Grid’s more ambitious development plans, especially the West-East project. Significantly, in spite of State Grid’s May announcement of impending official approval, Beijing has yet to approve the project.
However, Beijing’s inclusion of China Southern Power Grid in the audit suggests that the official goal is not to simply reform and restructure State Grid or end its semi-monopoly over the power transmission sector. Instead, Beijing may be seeking to clear the way for broader changes to both power transmission and power generation sectors. Recent events indicate a more comprehensive push to clean up China’s energy and power sector. In March, the government dismissed the chairman of major state-owned hydroelectric dam operator China Three Gorges Corp. on corruption charges. Beijing then removed the deputy head of the National Energy Administration at the end of May on similar charges. This could mean future restructuring of specific companies or sectors, including China’s pipeline network. Alternately, the crackdown on corruption could simply mean that Beijing is aware of the massive level of investment needed to achieve its long-term development goals and is moving aggressively to reduce corruption-related inefficiency and waste.
The real question is whether the audit results will significantly affect or even derail State Grid’s West-East power grid plans. This is unlikely. Adjustments to the plan and further delays in implementation cannot be ruled out — especially if further reports of graft emerge. Even a deep reorganization of State Grid, however, would be unlikely to completely stop investment into the development of West-East transmission networks — either the ordinary or ultra-high voltage sections. China’s coal and energy production continue to move inexorably westward. At the same time, China’s central regions are consuming substantially more energy and electricity even as the government seeks to reduce coal consumption in coastal urban centers. As a result, China has little choice but to pursue options for transporting electricity — not just the coal itself — from western production bases to consumers in east.