Changes in social patterns resulting from efforts to control COVID-19 are also affecting the electric power industry, and although it is still too early to determine with certainty how the efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic are affecting the entire sector, the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s short-term forecasts provide some perspective on the trends they are seeing. EIA officials expect U.S. electricity demand to only total 998 billion kilowatt-hours this summer (June through August), which would put the summer of 2020 at the lowest level of electricity consumption in the United States since 2009 and -5% less than last summer.
Electricity consumption is mostly expected lower this summer as a result of efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 with retail and commercial electricity sales expected to drop by 12% and 9% respectively, from last summer. On the flip side, we should see residential electricity use grow by +3% this summer as more people are working from home and fewer are traveling. Normally, the weather is one of the primary factors in determining electricity demand in the residential and commercial sectors, but this years summer forecast by NOAA shows the U.S. cooling degree days, an indicator of demand for air conditioning for June, July, and August will be -1% lower than last summer.
Leading the way in the contraction of production will be coal-fired power plants, which are expected to only generate 178 billion kWh between June and August 2020, down aggressively from 272 billion kWh last summer. EIA estimates show coal’s generation share will fall from 24% to 17% this summer, and be lower than nuclear generation. On the other hand, natural gas-fired power plants will generate 467 billion kWh this summer, slightly higher than natural gas generation last summer, and with natural gas prices remaining low, it certainly makes it more economical than coal for power generation. EIA has natural gas’s share of electricity generation increasing from 41% last summer to 44% this summer. Renewable’s share of electricity generation will continue to grow this summer as well, and with significant additions of new wind and solar generating capacity, especially in the Midwest region and Texas, EIA forecasts that U.S. wind’s share of electricity generation will grow to 7% this summer and utility-scale solar will grow to 3%. Here at the office, we have been fielding a lot more calls on producers looking for info or wanting to talk to others who are leasing ground to the new-wave of solar technology. It definitely looks like the trend to source more electricity via solar is going to continue, if we can help out in any way give us a call. (Source: EIA.gov)