From Scott Carlberg

Our nation generated more electricity in 2018 than ever before. Up 4 percent.

What may seem odd is that the last record was in 2007, more than ten years ago. That was before the recession, and the weather in 2018 required more power to meet hotter and colder weather than some previous years. Then there has been more energy efficiency. There’s a message for consumers in the rise of electricity used and the future.

Note the way the graph levels out as the Great Recession and added energy efficiency took hold

The Energy Information Agency breaks out the use by sector – residential, commercial (think stores and restaurants) and industrial (operating industrial machinery, lights, computers, facility heating, cooling, ventilation). Take a look at the graphs.

Residential, commercial and industrial electric use

“There are four main factors driving reductions in commercial and industrial consumption: the economy, increased manufacturing and workforce efficiency, energy efficiency and lighting programs, and distributed generation. … While lighting is the most rapidly decreasing electric end use, HVAC is also seeing dramatic changes in electricity consumption in the C&I sector, mostly due to energy efficiency programs, improvement in device efficiency, and more stringent building codes.” (Source)

Electric energy experts weighed in on what the future will bring in electric energy needs recently:

  • “A trend that will affect utilities over the next five years is skyrocketing electric vehicle (EV) sales. An estimated 2.9 million EVs are expected to hit the streets within five years, and, according to CAISO, this will bring over 11,000 GWh of load to the U.S. power grid (or about $1.5 billion in annual electricity sales).
  • “Utilities have the opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence to detect EVs in the home for DSM [demand side management] programs, another growing trend among forward-thinking utilities. This will be critical for utilities who wish to want to plan for electrification and take advantage of monetization opportunities in terms of offering charger upgrades for EVs.”

Another reason that electric needs can increase may seem far from your home, but is actually very much a part of your life as you read this blog – the cloud and your computer. “The sizing of data centers and cloud campuses has a long way to go,” says one data expert in Data Center Frontier. Another said, “The large (cloud providers) are all talking about needing a gigawatt of capacity over the next five years,” said another. 

Part of a water filtration unit underneath a cooling tower outside Google’s data center in Lenoir, NC. Photo-Google

Data centers are happening in our region. Apple, Google, Facebook and Disney have locations near Charlotte. Two reasons are reliable power and moderate climate. (Source) Recently Google was in the press with a South Carolina center.

So, the prognosis?

“In the long term, EIA projects that electricity consumption will continue to grow but at a slower pace than in recent decades. Economic and population growth are the primary drivers of rising electricity demand, with the number of households growing 0.7% per year and commercial floorspace increasing 1.0% per year from 2018 through 2050 … Electricity sales to the residential and commercial sectors are expected to grow more slowly, at 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively, as improvements in technology and energy efficiency standards moderate electricity consumption growth.” (Source)

For consumers this points out the need to stay on top of how the industry is changing, individual or family energy use and costs. It’s personal. More self education about energy because the industry is evolving the way it makes electricity and charges for its use, much at consumers’ demand. Every industry changes, look at cell phones, automobiles, payment systems or on a more mundane level, even self checkout at your grocery.

Understand your personal electric bill and your personal usage for the sake of your family budget, your efficiency and stewardship of resources.