THE BIG PICTURE: Pandemic Impact on Demand

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a macroeconomic shock that is unprecedented in peacetime. By the end of the first quarter, its effects on global power demand were deep, the International Energy Agency (IEA) noted in a flagship report released on April 30. The international organization, which has collected daily data for more than 30 countries representing more than a third of global electricity demand, found that, on average, every month of full lockdown reduced demand by 20%. It expects global electricity demand to tumble 5% in 2020—the largest decline since the Great Depression, and eight times the reduction in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Source: IEA Global Energy Review 2020

COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century event for energy demand. The shock to energy demand in 2020 is set to be the largest in 70 years. According to the IEA, global energy demand has so far declined by 6%—a fall seven times greater than the 2009 financial crisis.

Lockdowns are sharply reducing electricity demand. Corrected for weather effects, full lockdown measures hit the services sector hard and reduced daily electricity demand by at least 15% in France, India, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the northwestern region of the U.S. Italy saw demand plunge by more than 25%.

Demand is slated to tumble by 5% in 2020. Global electricity demand was already slowing in several countries, but the IEA expects it will fall by 5% in 2020. A faster recovery, meanwhile, could reduce demand by only 2%. The IEA projects that a second wave this fall could lead to a decline of greater than 5%.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor.

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