Electricity Consumption Will Grow Again

Electricity Consumption Will Grow Again

(For the record: Articles published in January of 2018, i.e., four years ago, foresaw the reason why consumption of electricity was flat and accurately predicted when growth would resume. See note for link to these articles.)

Today, consumption of electricity in the US has been unchanged for the past ten years, but is about to grow again.

US Electricity Consumption STATISTA
From Statista. Data from EIA

(See article: Excess Generating Capacity for details about why new power generation has been added when there has been no increase in demand.)

The most important energy saving technology in history has caused growth to stall over the past decade.

The lowly light bulb is the reason why electricity demand has stagnated. But this has been a special light bulb using light emitting diodes (LEDs) rather than a filament. 

Over the past decade, LEDs have largely replaced incandescent bulbs.

Nearly all the change has taken place in the residential sector. Incandescent bulbs are a very small part of commercial lighting and have practically no use in industrial settings.

Distribution of lighting by sector EIA
Chart from EIA showing use of incandescent lighting by sector in 2010.
Nearly all is in the residential sector

The following table shows that lighting, as a percentage of residential consumption of electricity, has decreased from 17% in 2000, to 4% in 2020, with most of the reduction taking place in the past five years.

The average size of the lightbulb, i.e., lamp, has nearly decreased to where it would be, i.e., around 12 to 15%, if LEDs accounted for all lighting in the residential sector. 

From this point forward, residential consumption of electricity will likely grow as population grows, at around 1 to 1.5% per year.

Industrial growth was interrupted by the 2008 economic crisis and again by the COVID pandemic, so growth of electricity consumption in the industrial sector will depend on growth in economic activity.

Growth in the use of electricity in the transportation sector will be dependent on the use of battery powered vehicles.

While economic conditions may preclude growth over the next year or two, it’s highly likely that there will be significant growth in electricity consumption over the next decade. 

Whether this remains at around 1 to 1.5% per year or substantially higher will depend on the adoption rate of battery powered vehicles.

The important conclusion is that, for the first time since 2010 there will be a genuine need for new power generation capacity.

This is an opportunity for nuclear power to step in to fill the need.


For Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 1 

For Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 2 

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2 Replies to “Electricity Consumption Will Grow Again”

  1. Donn,
    My own observations over my career was to watch enormous amounts of Industrial Power Demand be transferred to overseas. In my case, it was related to working for ALCOA for a few decades (1978-2012). Huge plants were shut down that used hundreds of Megawatts of power. Such as the large Rockdale Texas operation which used, I think about 600 MW of power. The small smelter near my town of Albemarle, in Badin, NC used about 200 MW when in operation. Interesting to me was that most of the people that worked at the Badin Works lived in the nearby community of Albemarle, a town of about 20,000 people. Peak electric load on a hot summer day was about 50 MW for the 20,000 people living in Albemarle, including the commercial businesses in Albemarle. This commercial and residential use is compared to about 200 MW used when the smelter was running at top capacity. After the Badin Works was shut down, All of that industrial generation then became available for commercial and residential consumption. Aluminum smelting is very energy intensive, it consumes about 5 kWh per pound of aluminum. Even the Textile Industry of Stanly County used dozens of Megawatts of power. Most of those Textile mills were shut down. In fact, my old office building was originally built about 1890 as Wiscassett Mills main office building for a thriving business of about a hundred years. Where I sat, the President of Wiscasset Mills sat a dozen years earlier. At peak production, Wiscassett Mills had about 3,000-5,000 employees. Our company about 35. This decline of about 8,000 Stanly County Industrial jobs was all thanks to NAFTA and later in 2001, admitting China into the WTO. Ross Perot said it right in a Debate….”If NAFTA is passed you will hear a giant sucking sound as the jobs leave the U.S.A.” Perot was correct. Along with the loss of the jobs went much of America’s Industrial electrical load.

    • Thanks. The loss of jobs to China ned elsewhere was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound.
      Aluminum is a huge energy user. When I established GE’s business in Bahrain, one of our larger customers was ALBA, an aluminum smelter located on Bahrain that used GE gas turbines to provide the needed electricity. Since natural gas was essentially cost free, it allowed ALBA to be competitive.
      The growth rate of US electricity consumption before 2000 was over 3%, so there was a large effect from 2000 forward.