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Power consumption down 4% in first quarter
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Electricity usage dropped at a slower pace in China during the first quarter of this year, thanks to the government's stimulus package which has helped boost industrial production.

China's electricity consumption fell 4 percent to 781 billion kWh while power supply of the country's major power grid fell 3.3 percent to 680 billion kWh in the first quarter from a year earlier, the China Electricity Council (CEC) said in a statement yesterday.

Power consumption fell 5.2 percent to 497.2 billion kWh while power generation declined 3.7 percent to 488.3 billion kWh in the first two months compared to the same period last year, said the National Bureau of Statistics on March 12.

Official figures on China's first quarter power output are likely to be published soon by the National Bureau of Statistics.

Electricity use rose "noticeably" last month from February as the government's economic stimulus measures took effect, an official from CEC told China Central Television last week.

The smaller decline of an estimated 2 percent drop from that of a year earlier in electricity output in March is a "positive sign", the official said.

One of the country's top power producers, China Resources Power Holdings Co, said yesterday that electricity sales climbed 13 percent to 5.7 million megawatt-hours last month from a year earlier.

China's industrial production climbed 8.3 percent in March from a year earlier, Xinhua said earlier, citing an interview with Premier Wen Jiabao. Factory output rose 3.8 percent in January and February from a year earlier.

The Chinese economy developed at the slowest pace in seven years in the fourth quarter of 2008 as industrial production slumped, eroding demand for power. Power generation declined at a stunning 9.6 percent and 7.9 percent in November and December.

The year-on-year growth rate in power consumption is expected to turn positive in the third quarter of the year, if economic growth keeps up momentum of the first quarter, Zhang Yongjun, senior economist with the State Information Office, told China Daily yesterday.

"We might be able to see a positive power use growth in the second quarter," he added.

Electricity consumption in the country's biggest manufacturing hubs, such as Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces, are below the country's average, while in Shandong and Jiangsu it is just a little bit above the average, said CEC.

"As all of these provinces are coastal provinces and are depending largely on exports, they are still suffering from dwindling orders due to the financial crisis," Zhang said.

The relatively less developed Guizhou province in Southwest China enjoyed the biggest year-on-year growth in power use, at about 23 percent, in the first quarter, according to the CEC.

"The unusually high power consumption growth in Guizhou is because it is one of the biggest victims of the snow storm last January which disrupted the province's power supply for quite a long time," Zhang said.

(China Daily April 16, 2009)

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