Germany switches on power slowly after lockdown - research

* Power usage down 6.6% year-on-year, says Kiel institute

* Germany narrowed gap from minus 7.5% in recent weeks

* Austria patterns make quick German recovery look unlikely

* Demand drops accelerate in Britain, Netherlands, Belgium

FRANKFURT, April 29 (Reuters) - German electricity consumption is 6.6% below levels normal for this time of year and it will take time to rise as lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus crisis are eased gradually, public sector research showed on Wednesday.

Germany, Europe’s leading power market with 511 terawatt hours (TWh) of annual consumption lost up to 7.5% of power usage on workdays during stricter lockdowns in recent weeks, the non-profit Kiel Institute for the World Economy (ifw) said in a statement.

The institute, which is one of the top economic advisors to the government, added “a short-term rebound after the decisions to ease restrictions is not yet evident”.

Its research is based on official figures and its modelling of seasonal, weather, long-term and holiday effects.

Germany imposed strict curbs on business activities and personal movement between March 23 and April 19.

It gradually lifted some restrictions from April 20.

As the lockdown halted much industrial production and consumers stayed at home, energy demand fell, although power usage continued in areas such as food production, as well as residential usage.

The Ifw also studied the development of power consumption in Austria, which started and ended lockdowns a week earlier than its bigger neighbour.

As Austrian consumption was still lagging normal levels by 11%, the ifw concluded Germany’s economy was also likely to take time to return to more typical power use.

This is because retail tends to reopen first and accounts for a small part of usage, and because Germany also depends more than Austria on demand for its products in export markets, ifw president Gabriel Felbermayr said.

There is a clear correlation between power usage and German manufacturing. Its industry’s power consumption accounts for 45% of the total.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy saw power usage drop by 25% in early April but has since gone back up to minus 12%, said the ifw, noting a similar dynamic in Spain.

Separately, the German energy industry association BDEW said power usage in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands was still shrinking, but that France has slowed its decline.

German wholesale power prices, Europe’s benchmarks, have pared some heavier losses seen during the lockdowns, the BDEW noted. (Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Barbara Lewis)