* Power output hit by declining downstream demand
* Hydro levels also drop with reservoir storage down
* Utilisation rates at thermal plants continues decline (Adds detail)
BEIJING, Oct 19 (Reuters) - China generated 454.8 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power in September, down 3.1 percent from the same month last year, the country’s statistics bureau said on Monday, with industrial demand still under pressure as the economy slows.
Power generation growth has been falling this year as a result of declining consumption levels in downstream industries like steel, which are struggling with crippling rates of overcapacity and weak prices.
With China trying to ease its fossil fuel dependence, the slowdown in electricity demand has had a pronounced impact on China’s thermal power plants, usually responsible for about three-quarters of the country’s total electricity.
The predominantly coal-fired generators produced 314.6 billion kWh of power in September, down 3.6 percent on the year and accounting for 69 percent of the total. Thermal power production over the first three quarters has fallen 2.2 percent, compared to a 0.1-percent increase in overall generation.
The drop in thermal power in September could have been more severe had it not been for a decline in hydropower volumes over the period. Hydro generation fell 6.7 percent on the year to 107.5 billion kWh, with reservoir storage levels still lower than the same period of 2014.
With the power market in surplus, grid companies have been able to take on cleaner sources of electricity without disrupting supplies, and utilisation rates at China’s coal-fired power plants have been dropping.
Average utilisation rates at China’s thermal power plants fell by 265 hours in the first three quarters of the year, the National Energy Administration said in a separate release on Monday.
Falling demand from thermal power plants has helped drag Chinese coal production down by 2.2 percent in September and 4.3 percent in the first three quarters as a whole.
The NEA said total power consumption in September reached 456.3 billion kWh, down 0.2 percent compared to the same month last year, with industrial consumption dropping 2.9 percent over the period.
Total generation capacity, measuring generating units of 6,000 kilowatts or more, reached 1,385 gigawatts by the end of September, up 9.4 percent compared to the same period of last year. Thermal power stood at 947.22 GW, up 6.8 percent. (Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Joseph Radford)