Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dramatically alter electricity demand and generation patterns, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The latest EIA Short Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts a 6.5% drop in retail power sales to the commercial and industrial sectors in 2020.
“Although some stay-at-home orders are beginning to be relaxed, the effects of social distancing are likely to continue affecting U.S. electricity consumption during the next few months,” said the May 12 report.
EIA also predicts residential retail sales to fall by 1.3% in 2020 because of lower electricity demand as a result of milder winter and summer weather. The report notes, however, that the decline is offset slightly by higher “household electricity consumption as much of the population spends relatively more time at home.”
Another EIA report found similar decreases in electricity demand in both New York and the central region of the U.S., after taking into account historical temperature-comparable days.
Overall, EIA’s STEO forecasts that electric power sector generation will fall by 5% in 2020, primarily at coal-fired plants, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coal generation is projected to decrease by 25% this year, while natural gas generation will remain relatively flat, and generation from renewable energy sources will grow by 11%.
Despite this year’s growth in generation from renewables, the slowdown in economic activity is still expected to affect the number of projects coming online. While the forecasts of new utility-scale wind and solar--20.4 gigawatts for wind and 12.7 GW for solar--remain essentially unchanged from last month’s STEO, those figures are still about 5% and 10% lower, respectively, from the March STEO.
The lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in some states caused EIA to adjust its forecast for a gallon of regular gasoline in this month’s report, but those numbers are still much lower than the pre-COVID-19 forecasts. Regular gasoline is predicted to cost, on average, $1.91 per gallon, compared to $1.86 in last month’s STEO.