U.S. electricity use to drop by record amount in 2020 due coronavirus

(Reuters) - U.S. electricity consumption will collapse by a record 4.6% in 2020 as businesses shut due to government lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its short-term outlook this week.

EIA projected total U.S. power demand will drop to 3,716 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2020 from 3,896 billion kWh in 2019 before rising to 3,753 billion kWh in 2021.

That compares with an all-time high of 4,003 billion kWh in 2018, according to federal data going back to 1949.

If power consumption falls as expected in 2020, it would be the first time since 2012 that total demand declines for two years in a row.

EIA projected power sales to the commercial and industrial sectors will drop by 6.5% in 2020 from 2019 as many offices close and factories shut or run at reduced capacity.

Electricity sales to the residential sector, meanwhile, will only decline about 1.3% in 2020 from 2019, EIA projected, as reduced heating and air conditioning use because of milder winter and summer weather is offset by increased household consumption with many people staying home.

While both the residential and commercial sectors consumed record amounts of electricity in 2018 at 1,469 billion kWh and 1,382 billion kWh, respectively, the industrial sector set its all-time high of 1,064 billion kWh in 2000.

On a weekly basis, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an industry lobby group, said U.S. power demand plunged to a near 17-year low during the week of April 18.

On a daily basis, EIA said business closures due to the pandemic caused weekday power demand in March and April to drop by 9%-13% in the U.S. central region and 11%-14% in New York, the hardest hit state with the most coronavirus cases.

Of the 1.364 million coronavirus cases in the United States on May 13, about a quarter of those or roughly 337,000 were in New York State, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio