U.S. power use to drop by record amount in 2020 due coronavirus: EIA

(Reuters) - U.S. electricity consumption will collapse by a record 4.3% in 2020 due to business closures for coronavirus-linked lockdowns, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Tuesday in its Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO).

EIA projected total U.S. power demand will drop to 3,730 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2020 from 3,896 billion kWh in 2019 before rising to 3,785 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 consecutive years.

EIA said natural gas’ share of generation will rise from 37% in 2019 to 41% in 2020 before dropping to 36% in 2021 as gas prices increase, while coal’s share will slide from 24% in 2019 to 18% in 2020 before rising to 21% in 2021.

Nuclear’s share of generation will rise from 20% in 2019 to 21% in 2020 and 2021, while renewables will rise from 17% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 and 22% in 2021. Both nuclear and renewables will top coal for the first time in 2020.

EIA projected power sales to commercial and industrial consumers will drop by 7.0% and 5.6%, respectively, in 2020 from 2019 as offices close and factories run at reduced capacity for the coronavirus.

Electricity sales to the residential sector will hold steady in 2019 and 2020 as mild weather reduces heating and air conditioning use even though government lockdowns are causing many people to stay 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.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Sandra Maler