By Risa Maeda TOKYO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Japan's power output rose 2.4 percent in October from a year earlier, but a halt in double-digit growth reflected a slowdown in the pace of economic recovery, the chief of a power industry body said on Friday. Power generation has been higher than a year earlier for 11 months in a row partly because Japan was hit by its hottest summer on record this year with the heatwave extending into mid-September boosting air-conditioning usage. Demand from industry has also been firm, but its year-on-year growth has recently narrowed, said Masataka Shimizu, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. "It is clear that year-on-year growth in demand from the industrial sector is slowing down," said Shimizu, who is also President of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO). Shimizu referred to TEPCO's preliminary data showing power demand from industrial users rose 3.7 percent from a year earlier in October. In September, such demand climbed by 10.1 percent, marking the ninth straight month of gains. "We feel that the economic recovery has been losing its momentum. Behind that is the impact from a strong yen among other factors," Shimizu said at a regular news conference. Japan's 10 power utilities generated 75.51 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last month, according to preliminary data from the industry federation, one of the first sets of data to gauge the strength of the Japanese economy in the previous month. Total power generation in September was up 11.8 percent from a year earlier after year-on-year growth peaked at 13.3 percent in August, according to the Federation's revised data. The 2.4 percent year-on-year increase in October was roughly in line with expectations for a 3 percent rise in Reuters calculations based on other industry data. "October is in between a peak season for air-conditioning demand and that for heating demand," said a Federation spokesman. "It is not yet known whether the slowdown in year-on-year growth will become a trend or not." Power generation last month was 2.7 percent lower than 77.63 billion kwh in October 2008, before the global financial crisis put a brake on economic activities. The 10 utilities consumed 38 percent less fuel oil to generate electricity last month from a year earlier as a rise in hydropower generation pushed down thermal power by 3.5 percent, Friday's Federation data also showed. The 10 utilities burned 0.26 million kilolitres of fuel oil last month, down from 0.43 million kl a year earlier, and used 72 percent less crude oil than a year earlier at 79,000 kl. The 10 companies used 2.97 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in October, down 5 percent from a year before. But the usage of thermal coal rose by 9.3 percent from a year earlier to 4.08 million tonnes, despite a fall in thermal power generation to 34.09 billion kwh. COAL GAIN It was the ninth straight month of year-on-year gains in their usage of coal. Kansai Electric Power Co, Japan's second-biggest power firm after TEPCO, started commercial operations of the 900-megawatt No.2 unit at its Maizuru coal thermal plant, central Japan, on Aug. 31 as planned. Japan's coal thermal power capacity previously totalled 37,950 MW. Among other types of energy sources, hydropower generation rose to 4.19 billion kwh last month, up 21.8 percent from a year earlier, and nuclear power generation also rose by 11.4 percent to 24.26 billion kwh. Nuclear power utilisation rate at Japan's 10 nuclear power companies improved to 72.3 percent last month, the highest since December 2009 and up from 63.5 percent a year earlier. (Editing by Joseph Radford) ((email@example.com; +81 3 6441 1856; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org)) Keywords: UTILITIES JAPAN/ELECTRICITY (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to email@example.com) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.
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