Wednesday, March 16, 2016

U.S. Electricity Sales Dropped in 2015 for Fifth Time in 8 Years - by Joe Romm

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In the past year, total U.S. electricity sales fell a remarkable 1.1 percent.  The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that this is the fifth drop in the past eight years.

Electricity demand growth has been flat for a decade while GDP is up nearly 15 percent.  While weather plays a role in whether demand goes up or down in a given year, state and federal energy efficiency policies deserve a lot of credit for the long-term flattening of demand, as we’ll see.

I initially wrote about this new “decoupling” between electricity consumption and GDP growth in early February based on the release of the 2016 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

EIA, however, has the most accurate and comprehensive data on U.S. electricity supply and demand.  And this decoupling certainly deserves further examination since it is an unprecedented achievement in modern U.S. history, appears likely to continue, and has broad implications for energy and climate policy.  For instance, this decoupling is a key reason we’ve been able to cut total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in the past decade, since flat electricity demand meant that the explosive growth in renewables and natural gas power squeezed out dirty coal.

Efficiency Is a Driving Force Behind Flat Electricity Demand
The central question:  Why have U.S. electricity sales been virtually flat for a decade, while demand rose at a 2.4 percent annual growth rate in the 1990s?  Total U.S. electricity sales in 2015 were actually lower than 2007 sales.  During that time, industrial consumption declined, while both residential and commercial electricity consumption were virtually flat “despite growth in the number of households and growth in commercial building space.”

Read more at U.S. Electricity Sales Dropped in 2015 for Fifth Time in 8 Years

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