Health and Healthcare Systems

COVID-19: America hasn't used this little energy in 16 years

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An electronic signboard reading "stay home" stands with road closed signs blocking the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park visitors as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, near Panguitch, Utah, U.S., April 11, 2020.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton - RC2S2G94ISO9

COVID-19 has seen the closure of public spaces, businesses and factories all across America. Image: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Scott DiSavino
Reporter, Thomson Reuters
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United States

  • Energy usage in America has fallen to a 16-year low.
  • Coronavirus has caused a dramatic drop in energy consumption in the United States, as stay-at-home measures have meant businesses shutting and industrial activity largely halted.
  • The electricity demand fell by 5.7% from the same week in 2019 and is the lowest week since 2004.

U.S. electricity demand last week plunged to a 16-year low as offices shut and industrial activity slowed sharply with government travel and work restrictions to slow the coronavirus spread, according to analysts and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) trade group.

Energy traders noted power use also declined last week as mild weather kept heating demand low across much of the country.

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EEI said power output fell to 64,896 gigawatt hours during the week ended April 4. That was down 5.7% from the same week in 2019 and was the lowest in a week since April 2004. [EEI/]

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected economic slowdown and stay-at-home orders would reduce electricity and natural gas consumption in coming months.

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Total U.S. power consumption could decline by 3% in 2020. Image: New York Independent System Operator

EIA said it expected power sales to the commercial sector to drop by 4.7% in 2020 as many businesses close, while industrial demand will fall by 4.2% as factories shut or reduce output.

Electricity sales to the residential sector, meanwhile, will only decline about 0.8% in 2020, EIA projected, as reduced heating and air conditioning use due to milder winter and summer weather is offset by increased household consumption as many folks stay home.

EIA said it expects total U.S. power consumption to decline by 3% in 2020 before rising almost 1% in 2021.

In Texas, meanwhile, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of the state, said it began monitoring load impacts directly related to the coronavirus during the week of March 8.

“While there has been little impact to ERCOT’s daily peaks, the morning load has remained consistently lower between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m.,” ERCOT said, noting power demand in the morning was currently about 6% to 10% lower than expected under normal circumstances.

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