(Image: Chinatopix via AP)

China’s petulant ban on imports of Australian coking and thermal coal has come back to bite it hard, with the country scrambling to avoid a power crisis as the northern winter approaches.

Last week and weekend saw a series of meetings in Beijing between the government and major energy groups aimed at trying to build sufficient energy reserves for residential heating in winter -- while at the same time trying to avoid a surge in the prices of coal, gas and oil above the record levels amid blackouts and shutdowns caused by lack of power capacity.

Unusually, power shortages have attracted considerable media attention: the People’s Daily government media outlet reported on Sunday that a power shortage in the north-eastern industrial province of Liaoning was at a “severe level”, partly due to declining wind power (which has been a problem in Europe and the UK, along with a shortage of gas).