Electricity use shows how lockdown has changed Americans’ lifestyles with power consumption falling nearly 20 percent in the mornings as people lie in, while it rises in the evening as people stay home.
With school and work life switching to a stay-at-home model, businesses shuttering across the country, and state lockdowns mandating people stay at home except for exercise and trips to grocery stores, the daily routine of Americans has transformed.
Power market data shows people are sleeping later, having less productive afternoons, spending evenings at home, then going to bed much later.
But experts have warned that the fall in electricity use also shows the US is headed for an economic downturn as bad as the Great Recession.
Electricity use shows how lockdown has changed lifestyles with power consumption falling nearly 20 percent in the mornings as people lie in, while energy use peaks around midday
In virus epicenter New York, electricity use has fallen as much as 18 percent at 8 a.m. on weekdays compared to normal, according to the New York Independent System Operator.
Data shows the day now starts later in the Big Apple as the usual pattern for electricity demand to pick up between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m has been pushed back as white collar city workers enjoy a lie in instead of commuting into the office, children stay home from school and office buildings and nonessential businesses keep their lights off.
Jon Sawyer, who works for the New York Independent System Operator dispatching electricity throughout New York state, told the Washington Post there would usually be a sharp spike on the system’s computer screens at that time but now usage is far lower.
Power use usually spikes again between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. but with more people heading for an afternoon walk, it is now dipping at this time, according to Bloomberg.
New York City’s power use on April 21 shows the day now starts later in the Big Apple as the usual pattern for electricity demand to pick up between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m has been pushed back as white collar city workers enjoy a lie in instead of commuting into the office
Across New York state electricity use has fallen as much as 18 percent at 8 a.m. on weekdays compared to normal before rising up to midday
Then from 6 p.m., electricity use rises as people finish work.
Electricity use is highest in the evenings as – unable to venture to bars, restaurants or gyms – people watch TV, browse the internet video call friends and family in isolation.
Netflix has reported a surge in subscribers to a record 15.8 million and its share price has skyrocketed while video calling apps such as Zoom are also increasingly popular.
Overall electricity consumption has fallen across the US amid the pandemic
Monthly broadband consumption is as much as 600 gigabytes, about 35% higher, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, as internet traffic soars.
Power use data shows that along with a longer morning lie in, people are going to bed later too as demand doesn’t start to fall until round 9 p.m. and at midnight is still higher than it is around 8 a.m, the NYISO chart shows.
Separate data from the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago shows that, overall across the US, electricity consumption was down 6 percent on April 5 compared to December 2019.
While residential usage is up as workers and schoolchildren switch to working from home, restaurants, offices and factories are shut and transport systems – such as New York’s subway which typically uses as much electricity as Buffalo – are operating at a reduced level.
Consumption in New York was down almost 17 percent on April 7 and Chicago fell 7 percent on April 6.
It’s a similar story nationwide, with Los Angeles down almost 8 percent on April 5, Detroit down 12 percent on April 7
Sawyer said that certain industries – namely healthcare – are bucking the trend as hospitals already consume twice as much energy per square foot as hotels, and need to keep their lights on even more during the pandemic.
The lights are dimmer in Broadway in New York, and restaurants, offices and factories are all shut
New York stores are shut and the lights are out on April 1. Experts are warning that a general fall in power demand is a sign of the economy plummeting
The wholesale price of electricity has fallen about 40 percent in the past month, according to S&P Global Platts, driven by falling demand.
But experts are warning that a general fall in power demand is a sign of the economy plummeting.
Steve Cicala, an economics professor at the University of Chicago, has created a model to track the state of the economy by analyzing electricity usage.
It is based on the observation that most economic activity requires electricity and that electricity use and economic conditions went hand in hand during the last recession.Cicala warns the new data on electricity use in the past three weeks shows the US is on an economic downturn like that seen in the Great Recession.
‘While this isn’t a perfect measure, it certainly helps with filling in the gap so that we can get the most complete picture,’ he told the New York Times.