U.S. power use to drop over 2% in 2020 due coronavirus -EIA

Sept 9 (Reuters) - U.S. electricity consumption will decline 2.4% in 2020 as coronavirus lockdowns cause businesses to close, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday in its Short Term Energy Outlook.

EIA projected power demand will drop to 3,802 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2020 from 3,896 billion kWh in 2019 before easing to 3,801 billion kWh in 2021.

Those declines follow a 2.7% drop in usage in 2019 due to mild weather from 2018’s record 4,003 billion kWh, according to data going back to 1949.

If power consumption falls as expected, 2020 would be the first time demand declined for two consecutive years since 2012 and 2021 would be the first time it declined for three years in a row ever.

EIA said natural gas’ share of generation will rise from 37% in 2019 to 39% in 2020 before dropping to 34% in 2021 as gas prices increase, while coal’s share will slide from 24% in 2019 to 20% in 2020 before rising to 22% 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 6.4% and 6.0%, respectively, in 2020 from 2019 as offices close and factories run at reduced capacity for the coronavirus.

Electricity sales to residential homes, however, will rise 3.5% in 2020 from 2019 as lockdowns cause 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 Steve Orlofsky