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First signs of European power demand bounce as lockdowns ease

London — The first signs of demand recovery are evident in European power markets after lockdowns were eased, system operator data showed Thursday.

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Spanish, Italian and German load data for the last three Wednesdays collated by Entso-e showed electricity consumption up by around 2 GW in all three markets over a two-week view, equating to a 9% recovery for Spain, 8% for Italy and 3% in Germany.

Data for the UK and France, where lockdowns remain in place, showed relative stability across the three Wednesdays, indicating the effects of coronavirus restrictions have bottomed out, with grid-level demand dips this week reflecting warmer temperatures, reduced demand for electric heat and rising levels of distributed solar generation.

"European power demand appears to have found its bottom," analyst Meike Becker of broker Bernstein told S&P Global Platts.

"An easing in the lockdown is most clearly visible in Spain, but we are confident in saying demand declines are at least not worsening elsewhere," she said.

Dips of one, two or three percentage points in markets like France and the UK could be attributed to weather effects and not the coronavirus, Becker said.

Year on year, however, demand remains significantly lower because of the restrictions.

Comparing Easter weeks over a 12-month view, Italian electricity demand was 24% lower, French demand 18% lower, Spanish and UK demand 11% lower, and German demand 8% lower, load data showed.

Spain aims to ease its coronavirus lockdown in the second half of May, but some non-essential staff have already returned to work, while car manufacturer SEAT is to resume production April 27.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is to detail a restart program beginning May 4, the country having begun to lift restrictions on a limited number of activities April 14.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the lifting of some lockdown restrictions from April 20, with schools gradually reopening from May 4 and some shops allowed to resume trading under social distancing rules.