Electricity Demand Decreases Due to Coronavirus Lockdowns

A study published by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) shows peak demand and energy use decreased as much as 21% in some areas as a result of actions taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The report—COVID-19 Bulk System Impacts: Demand Impacts and Operational and Control Center Practices—was released on March 27. It reviews the impacts caused by lockdowns ordered in Italy, Spain, New York, California, and other regions, including Seattle, Washington.

The Italian data provided the most insight, because Italy began locking down residents some 10 days earlier than the U.S. Results of the shutdown were significant. Although load shapes were largely unchanged, Italy saw a 10% to 21% reduction in peak demand and energy use, compared to data from 2019.

In Spain, the results were less pronounced, but still showed a significant reduction in load as a result of lockdowns. During the first workweek, demand held relatively steady initially, before dropping about 15% as industries closed. Weekend load was down from 2% to 4%, but that remained within normal ranges. The analysis did not account for weather differences or non-COVID-19-related economic factors.

The report says New York and California experienced a 3% to 7% reduction in peak demand and energy use in the days following city and statewide lockdowns, with greater impact observed during morning peaks. Meanwhile, it says, “Other regions are starting to show significant energy demand reduction as they enter shutdowns.”

The New York ISO has reported similar observations. It said daily peak loads have trended lower than usual for this time of year. On March 25, it noted daily usage levels across the state were down between 2% and 3% over the previous two weeks. NYISO said, “We have also observed a later and more gradual morning ramping period,” resulting in about 6% to 9% lower demand between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. “Traditionally, we see a rapid increase in demand during this period as homes and business begin daily activities,” it said.

The EPRI report also considered the mix of residential, commercial, and industrial load in the various regions. New York was found to have the highest percentage of commercial load (52%) and the lowest percentage of industrial load (12%), while Italy was quite the opposite. Of the regions studied, Italy had the highest industrial load (40%) and ranked near the bottom in commercial load (32%). It also ranked lowest in residential load—22%—while most of the other regions analyzed were in the 35% to 40% range.

“Industry shutting down in Italy may have greater impact in the region,” the report says, while the “[p]otential increase observed in [the residential] sector may be less noticeable than other regions.”

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).

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