U.S. electricity demand is expected to total 998 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) between June and August, a 5% decline compared with the same period last year and the lowest level of summer electricity consumption the country has experienced since 2009, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Most of the expected decline will come through the commercial and industrial sectors, which EIA forecasts to be 12% and 9% lower, respectively, than summer 2019. The agency also expects residential electricity sales to grow by 3% this summer as the Covid-19 pandemic forces people to work from home and follow social-distancing practices.
“Normally, weather is one of the primary factors in determining electricity demand in the residential and commercial sectors,” EIA said. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts that U.S. cooling degree days — an indicator of demand for air conditioning — for June, July, and August 2020 will be 1% lower than last summer.
“This summer, however, other factors are affecting electricity demand more than temperature. Although state and local governments are relaxing stay-at-home orders, social distancing guidelines will likely result in Americans spending more time at home than usual this summer. In addition, many people that had worked in offices are now working from home, shifting electricity demand from the commercial sector to the residential sector.”
Natural gas-fired power plants will generate an estimated 467 billion kWh this summer, slightly higher than last summer (460 billion kWh), EIA said.
“Forecast natural gas prices remain low this summer, making it relatively more economical than coal for power generation. EIA forecasts natural gas’ share of electricity generation to increase from 41% last summer to 44% this summer,” the agency said.
EIA forecasts coal-fired power plants will generate 178 billion kWh this summer, down from 272 billion kWh in summer 2019.
“Coal continues its downward trend in its contribution to U.S. power generation, and EIA expects its generation share will fall from 24% of the electricity generated during summer 2019 to 17% this summer. EIA forecasts the amount of coal generation to be lower than nuclear generation this summer (207 billion kWh).
At the same time, EIA expects that U.S. wind’s share of electricity generation will grow to 7% and utility-scale solar will grow to 3% this summer.
PJM Interconnection, the largest U.S. electric grid operator, said recently it is prepared for peak demand this summer, and the New York grid operator also sees adequate generation for the hot months ahead.
The Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which is forecasting record power use this summer, warned that it may need to declare some Energy Emergency Alerts.
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