2018 Rise in Residential Electricity Use Sparks Some Interesting Insights

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently published an analysis of U.S. energy consumption in 2018. It was no surprise to see there was an increase in the total amount of energy consumed from electricity. However, two interesting trends popped out to me after having read the report: 

  • The industrial sector’s electricity use decreased.
  • Residential electricity use increased.

This is the first time in over a decade that we have seen an increase in electricity consumption in the residential market. Over that time, we have seen residential homeowners installing many energy-efficient appliances, converting incandescent light bulbs to LED technology, and taking advantage of more efficient home construction.

So, what would cause residential customers to start consuming more electricity? I attribute it to two factors: bad weather and increased use of digital technologies.

In 2018, for example, we saw extremes in both cold and hot weather. Polar vortexes and winter cyclones plunged temperatures down, forcing residential customers to run their heat more, and 36% of the country relies on electricity for heat. And during the summer, we saw record high temperatures, causing an increased use of electricity to run residential air conditioning units.

In addition to weather, we also are seeing increased electricity demand within homes from digital devices, with more families using multiple tablets and cellphones, buying electric vehicles, and installing security cameras, to note a few examples. An all-electric car, for example, can consume 25 kWh or more per 100 miles. Electric car owners have to replenish that lost energy somehow, and most do it in their garages or at charging stations in their residential communities.

Why are these trends important to note? Because residential electricity use has increased, the reliability of the grid to the customer meter needs to be revisited. As an industry, we understand the importance of having great reliability on the transmission system and distribution feeders, but now we need to reexamine how we can increase the reliability on our laterals and from the tap on overhead distribution transformers to the customer meter.

Has your utility been seeing a similar trend?


Erik Svanholm


三月 22, 2019