Power Market Signals Worst of Virus Crisis Is Almost Past

Source: By Rachel Morison and Ronan Martin, Bloomberg • Posted: Sunday, April 19, 2020

A pedestrian wearing a protective face masks walks by closed cafes and tapas bars at night in Madrid. Photographer: Paul Hanna/Bloomberg

Consumption losses are beginning to narrow in several nations even as restrictions for citizens are extended to try to keep the pandemic under control. The first sectors to return to work will be industries such as construction and manufacturing where working from home isn’t possible.

While the demand picture looks more promising week on week, a comparison to last year shows the extent of the damage Covid-19 has had on industry. In Europe’s major power markets the four-day Easter weekend consumption was the lowest for at least five years, according to energy consultant Wood Mackenzie Ltd.

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Aurora Energy Research Ltd

Following is a list of some of the impacts that grid and energy companies in the region are reporting:

Italy

Italy’s reported the highest new cases in four days on Thursday but the number of deaths and intensive care patients continued to decline — a sign that the nation’s tight lockdown is paying off. Officials say that some companies in the automobile, fashion, design and metalworking sectors may be allowed to reopen as early as next week, as the government considers plans to ease containment measures that are due to last until at least May 3.

The country’s drop in power demand has been one of the most stark in Europe, down 28% last week compared with a year earlier, according to Entsoe, the grid industry group. Peak power demand was 4.2% lower on Wednesday from a week earlier, widening the slump that last week was showing signs of easing, data from network operator Terna SpA show.

Germany

Power demand in Germany has been less affected than other nations, with use 13% lower last week compared with a year earlier. The nation will be among the first in Europe to ease measures with Chancellor Angela Merkel moving forward with plans to slowly start returning Germany to normal, allowing some smaller shops to reopen next week and children to begin returning to school in early May. Most of the restrictive measures will remain in place at least through May 3 and many aspects of public life will be limited for weeks and months to come.

Confirmed cases in the country increased at a faster rate for the second day in a row and the number of fatalities climbed above 4,000. The pace of increase in new cases had declined steadily for six days until Thursday.

Peak power consumption fell for the third week with a drop of 3.3% on Tuesday from a week earlier, according to data from Agora Energiewende. Demand has fallen 9.8% over the past three weeks, the data show.

Spain

Spain reported the biggest increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in a week yesterday, pushing the total above 180,000, according to Health Ministry data. Even still, it’s starting to focus more on how to relax restrictions imposed under a national state of emergency.

Power consumption grew by 1.2% on Wednesday from a week earlier, according to Red Electrica Corporacion SA, as the country began easing its lockdown restrictions allowing some business including construction and manufacturing to restart work. Demand has weakened 15% over the past four weeks and is down 25% from a year earlier, one of the biggest year-on-year slumps in Europe.

One consequence of the lower Spanish demand has been low-cost nuclear plants having to reduce output by about 20% mainly at weekends, according to RBC Europe Ltd. This might have a negative impact on Iberdrola SA and Endesa SA, the bank said.

U.K.

There are signs that the power demand slump may be starting to ease in Britain with National Grid Plc data showing a 3.8% drop on Wednesday from a week earlier. Consumption was 21% lower last week compared to a year earlier and the nation’s grid operator warned it expects to see an impact for months to come. Demand is already closer to levels seen in the summer months of July and August, it said in its Summer Outlook report.

The U.K. extended its nationwide lockdown by three more weeks at least until May 7 on Thursday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the limits have helped slow the spread but the rate of infection hasn’t yet fallen far enough, with the government warning against even discussing any exit strategy.

U.K. power demand

France

In France, the slump in demand has forced Electricite de France SA to cut its production targets from its nuclear power plants by more than a fifth this year. Illness of staff has meant that maintenance works haven’t been carried out. The company will close stations in the summer to conserve fuel for winter.

Demand has slumped 24% from a year earlier and French industry is operating at about half of its capacity, a lower level than in neighboring European countries, according to the government.

Consumption was 1.6% lower on Wednesday compared with a week earlier, Reseau de Transport d’Electricite SA data show, indicating that the situation isn’t worsening.

Demand is starting to find a bottom
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(Updates with latest Italy infection rates in 4th paragraph)