Our feature image is from a friend who safely shot a view from his windshield. It’s traffic in the North Carolina Triangle at rush hour on a weekday. Doesn’t look like a rush hour, does it?
The lack of traffic means that here isn’t as much gasoline sold. With businesses shut down there isn’t as much power sold, either. Or, the patterns of energy use are different. Fortune magazine called electric energy sales, “A Month of Sundays,” because Sunday is a traditionally slower day for power use.
The utility industry has a keen ability to understand patterns, like Sundays, and plan ahead to make sure that customers have power when they need it. The pandemic and economic tribulation is changing patterns.
Fortune noted that New York energy usage at 8 a.m., normally high-use time, is down 18 percent. Seems that coffee machines that suck up energy between 6 and 8 in the morning seem to be clicking on between 8 and 9 a.m. now.
Duke Energy, which recently released its annual report, announced that its sales are down and how it will respond. “That includes a hiring freeze, cuts in outside contractors and overtime, and plant outages.” (Source)
Residential customers are increasing power use. Users like commercial (business) are down by about ten percent, and industrial is down about 13 percent.
Residential customers – Get ready for bigger home utility bills, though. Look at the calendar. Summertime – and air conditioning season – is coming. One Texas news story we saw noted the need to get ready for this. Heat is already there. I have relatives in Texas and they already hit 95 degrees in April. Whew, wait until August. A report this week said Texas can expect to use a record amount of power this summer even with the effects of the pandemic.
When extreme heat is on, customers crank up their use of power, creating “peak loads” on the system.
The pandemic and economic conditions will raise all kinds of demands on energy companies and users. For instance, there is a recognition that some people may have a problem paying power bills. Utilities have halted disconnects on customers who cannot pay. That can’t go on forever. How will that be addressed in the future?
As energy companies need to save money they may defer some non-essential maintenance, but that will need to be done eventually. They can trim the workforce, reduce travel. They can look for rate hikes.
Is it possible that the same electric vehicle [EV] in your driveway can be cleaner one month to the next? It can.
If the power on the electric grid used to charge an EV gets cleaner, the car effectively gets cleaner. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) noted that “utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively produced more than coal-fired generation.” That means the pollution displacement, or the idea that pollution does not come from the tailpipe but the plant stack somewhere else, means EVs are cleaner than ever.
EVs may have a broader impact, too. One story, Electric Car Sales Plummet, May Hurt California’s Climate Goals, says that low gasoline prices inhibit sales of EVs. “Even with rebates and state incentive programs it could prove difficult to get low to middle- income earners to buy electric, especially as a recession looms.”
Electric vehicles also face an issue called, Charger Deserts. Those are places that have no easy access to charging an EV. One news report even says that 40 percent of Americans do not live in a home that can accommodate a charger. EVs can only run on clean energy when they can get a clean charge.
Finally I’ll point out an important story for energy consumers from the Charleston Business Journal’s Andy Owens, Business fraud attempts rising amid COVID-19 pandemic.
In unusual events like a pandemic there are people who may try and take advantage of consumers. Andy points out the way some scammers are using utility company names to try and get in consumer’s pockets. Utilities work hard to keep consumer information safe.
Need to report a problem? Here are sites from North and South Carolina. The South Carolina office of consumer affairs, and the North Carolina Department of Justice. Utility companies have web pages with advice, too.
We mentioned that Duke Energy released its annual report. These are good ways to get to know companies. Certainly, companies use their annual reports for sparkly framing of good news. But they have to put hard facts in there, too.
The 2019 report has also been issued by Dominion Energy. (Left)
Other Carolina companies’ annual reports with an energy angle? Here are a few: