EIA: COVID-19 reversed recent residential electricity demand drop in 2020, but not by much

Although many people spent more time at home during 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, retail sales of electricity to the residential sector in the United States, calculated per capita (per person), averaged 4,437 kWh per person, only 1% more than in 2019, according to a new report released Friday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Warmer weather in 2020 (including a significantly warmer winter) increased electricity consumption for air conditioning during the summer but reduced U.S. home electricity consumption for space heating during the winter, according to the EIA.

U.S. residential electricity demand historically rose an average of 3 percent annually from 1960 to 2010. For the past decade, however, warmer weather and energy efficiency improvements drove down residential use by five percent, the EIA says.

Per capita U.S. residential electricity use varied widely across the states in 2020, from 2,018 kWh per person in Hawaii to 6,663 kWh per person in Louisiana. Nearly all of the states with the highest residential electricity sales per capita, such as Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, are in the South census region, where air conditioning and electric space heating are most prevalent. About 64% of southern homes heat primarily with electricity, compared with about 25% of homes outside of the South, according to the EIA

The only state with relatively high per capita residential electricity use outside of the South is North Dakota, which has the coldest average annual temperature in the Lower 48 states. About 41% of homes in North Dakota heat with electricity.

In 2020, per capita residential electricity use decreased in many of the states where electricity is widely used for home heating, including many states in the South. In 2020, the District of Columbia’s per capita residential electricity use fell 4% compared with 2019, a larger decrease than for any of the states, followed by Arkansas (-4%) and North Dakota, Indiana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Missouri (-3% each).

However, per capita residential electricity use rose significantly in the West census region; many states in this region experienced their warmest summers on record in 2020. Arizona’s per capita residential electricity use increased 10% compared with 2019, the largest increase of any state, followed by Nevada, Alaska, and California (9% each).

Author

  • Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering, POWERGEN International and the online POWERGEN+ series. He is a 13-year veteran of covering the energy industry both as a newspaper journalist and trade publication editor. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and rod.walton@clarionevents.com.

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