Econonomics of Energy and Environmental Policy

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Changes in Electricity Use following COVID-19 Stay-at-home Behavior

This article uses hourly electricity consumption data from the PJM Interconnection in the United States and stay-at-home metrics from cell phone location data to study the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on electricity consumption using a difference-in-predicted-differences strategy. I show that while in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic total electricity consumption declined by 2.7–3.8% relative to a predicted counterfactual, in June through August 2020 electricity consumption was 2.1–3.5% higher than the predicted counterfactual. Time spent at home reduces electricity consumption, and a reduction in time at home after May lead to increased electricity consumption in the summer months. In addition, higher temperatures had an increased effect on electricity consumption in 2020 relative to previous years. Nationwide monthly data on electricity consumption by load class reveals that commercial and industrial consumption was below its expected baseline from March-December 2020, while residential consumption was above its expected baseline, peaking in July. This suggests that increased demand for residential cooling offset declines in commercial and industrial demand for electricity. Estimates of the total effect of the pandemic on electricity consumption from March through December 2020 suggest that early reductions in electricity use were offset by later increases, implying that any expected "silver lining" of decreased emissions from electricity generation may be smaller than previously thought.
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Keywords: COVID-19, work-from-home, social distancing, location data, electricity

DOI: 10.5547/2160-5890.12.1.dbre

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Published in Volume 12, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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