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S. Korea's power consumption up 1.3 pct in 2015

All News 11:38 January 27, 2016

SEJONG, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's electricity consumption moved up a modest 1.3 percent on-year in 2015, helped by a rise in demand from the industrial and private sectors, government data showed Wednesday.

The country used 4,837 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of power last year, up from 4,776 kWh in 2014, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.

Power usage is an important barometer of a country's economic health, with gains corresponding to improvements in the economy. Asia's fourth largest economy grew 2.6 percent in 2015, down from 3.3 percent growth reached in 2014.

With the exception of late night electric power which contracted 4 percent on-year, demand rose across the board. General electric power used by the private sector rose 2.9 percent to 1,037 kWh, with demand from the industrial sector edging up 0.4 percent to 2,736 kWh.

Power used by homes rose 1.8 percent, while those consumed by farms jumped 8.3 percent, vis-a-vis the year before.

"The generally sluggish pace of economic growth, and overcapacity in the steel industry, which is a big user of electric power affected industrial demand to some extent, although this was offset by gains in chemicals, autos and general machinery," the ministry said.

Demand for electricity from local steel mills dropped 5.3 percent to 462 kWh, while power used by carmakers and chemical companies rose 1.5 percent and 0.7 percent, each, compared to the previous year. Electricity consumed by the country's general machinery manufacturers shot up 5.3 percent.

Besides power consumption, the ministry said sales at local department stores, large retail outlets and big supermarkets all contracted last year, with gains only being reported for convenience stores.

Lower sales were due mainly to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak that swept across the country from late May to early July, it said. This left 38 people dead and 187 people infected, and scared off people from crowded areas like shopping malls.

Sales at the country's department stores were down 1.2 percent on-year, while large discount outlets like E-mart posted sales falling 2.1 percent. Large supermarket chains or super supermarkets (SSMs) also said sales were down 1.3 percent. In contrast, sales at convenience stores surged 26.5 percent, due to a spike in cigarette prices starting in January.

The ministry also said that growth of the country's online shopping malls and discount outlets hurt department stores and large discount outlet sales.

In the first 11 months of 2015, online shopping malls and discount outlets reported sales gains of 19.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

For December, the latest data showed sales at large discount stores backtracking 5.1 percent on-year, while the corresponding numbers for department stores and SSMs were each down by 5.7 percent and 5 percent. Sales at convenience stores were up 20.3 percent on-year.

The ministry attributed the drop to higher than expected winter temperatures which hurt demand for warm clothing and miscellaneous goods.

yonngong@yna.co.kr
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