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Energy Load Shifts Because of Coronavirus

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
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Paul is a seasoned (basically old) freelance B2B content producer. Through the years, he has written more than 10,000 items (blogs, news stories, white papers, case studies, press releases and...

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  • Mar 19, 2020

The unprecedented steps taken to help the US mitigate potential problems from the Coronavirus will create a ripple effect for energy producers. While the final impact will only be seen once the pandemic ends, it seems likely that energy usage will drop and usage patterns will shift, forcing energy producers to adjust their load expectations and delivery plans.

People are doing less: less interacting with friends, no group gatherings, limited commuting, and only necessary traveling to local retailers. Those changes translate into a drop in energy use overall. Bloomberg found that electric power demand in Italy decreased 7% once significant restrictions were put into place.

But individuals and families also do more. With fewer face-to-face interactions, many connect virtually. Millions of Americans employees work from home. Individuals and families are turning to virtual entertainment: downloading movies, Facetiming with friends, tweeting, and playing video games. In South Korea, Italy, and Seattle, residential Internet rose 40% , according to NPR.

So what does that mean for utilities? They should lower their expected usage numbers for the short term. Also, energy load patterns will change. Less energy will be needed in the typical weekday hubs, like urban downtowns and office parks. More energy will be consumed in neighborhoods. In sum, the current seven day, energy usage pattern will closely resemble the traditional weekend, so utilities need to adjust accordingly.


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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 19, 2020

Really interesting to watch this, and especially to watch how they develop over time.

If anyone has any questions/resources/perspective to share, I encourage you to post them to our COVID-19 Q&A hub we started for discussing how the pandemic is impacting utilities and what they are doing to respond: 

Nevelyn Black's picture
Nevelyn Black on Mar 20, 2020

Enjoyed your article Paul.  I have noticed several articles for consumers on how to stay energy efficient while working from home.  One tip encouraged customers to avoid peak rate times but with so many working from home, will peak times change or just go from bad to worse? 

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Mar 20, 2020

Nice to see that EnergyCentral created a place where energy professionals can share information about how the Corona virus is impacting their work.

Interesting question, Nevelyn. My sense is overall usage will drop rather than rise because individuals and businesses are doing less because they are sequestered.  Questions do arise about how well the grid support consumers since they will be staying home and using more residential energy.

Also, their bills will rise and paying them may become a challenge for some, especially those who have had trouble making ends meet.  A number of states have put checks in place to keep energy companies from shutting off service to individuals who miss a payment or two because of the virus. However, this change may stress utilities and their ability to meet their financial obligations.

We all face a set of complex challenges, so lets hope progress occurs, so we get back to normal soon.


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