China's April electricity consumption rebounds as lockdown measures ease

BEIJING, April 20 (Reuters) - China’s electricity consumption in the first half of April rebounded from last year, as the coronavirus-hit economy gradually starts to recover with the country easing tight containment measures taken to tackle the pandemic.

Power consumption in the world’s second-largest economy climbed 1.5% in the first two weeks of April from a year-ago period, while electricity generation picked up by 1.2%, the country’s state planner said in a briefing on Monday.

China had recorded a 4.2% drop in power consumption in March and a 10.1% plunge in February compared with a year earlier, as authorities imposed stringent restrictions on travel and business operations in order to contain the spread of the flu-like epidemic, firstly identified in central Chinese city Wuhan.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) also reported that total power generation in the first quarter dropped 6.8% from a year earlier. Among which, thermal power generation and hydropower generation plunged 8.2% and 9.5%, respectively, on-year.

The lukewarm power consumption had knocked down spot prices of coal, the most widely used fuel for power generation in China, to 498 yuan ($70.38) a tonne by Friday, down 11% since the beginning of the year.

Experts from an industrial think-tank, China Coal Economic Research Association (CCERA), estimated China’s coal consumption in the first quarter at 870 million tonnes, down 60 million tonnes from a year earlier. Among which, coal demand in power sector alone saw a reduction of nearly 50 million tonnes.

Along with a rebound in coal consumption and power generation, China’s coal output hit a record high in March at 340 million tonnes, the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Friday.

A coal industrial association and 12 leading Chinese anthracite coal miners appealed to their peer miners to slash the production of anthracite and coking coal by 10% next month in an attempt to maintain the supply and demand balance in the coal sector, according to two statements issued by China Coal Transport & Distribution Association on Saturday.

Power consumption at non-ferrous, pharmaceutical, electronics, chemical and steel sectors have basically reached the levels as last year, the NDRC said.

$1 = 7.0758 yuan Reporting by Muyu Xu and Shivani Singh, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips