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Electricity use in the US is falling - still

Steven Nadel

25th February 2014

Electricity usage in the US has been declining since 1993, writes Steven Nadel. Among the reasons for the fall, improved energy efficiency is emerging as a key factor, especially post-2007.

Energy efficiency has become an important factor in the level of US electricity consumption.

US electricity sales peaked in 2007 and have been declining modestly since then.

Sales in 2012 were 1.9% lower than 2007 sales, and sales in the first ten months of 2013 are below the same period in 2012.

The economic recession is the obvious explanation for the decline in sales in 2008 and 2009. But it is much less clear why sales have continued to decline since then, even as the economy began to recover.

While some observers have attributed this stalled growth to the ongoing effects of the 'Great Recession', other observers suggest other factors: erosion of manufacturing, more efficient buildings, lighting and appliances and increased use of on-site generation.

2007 - energy efficiency kicks in for real

ACEEE has just completed an analysis on electricity-use trends since 1993. The most significant factors were energy efficiency programs and policies, warmer weather, changes in gross domestic product (GDP), changes in electricity prices, and long-term trends.

From 2007 to 2012, savings resulting from energy efficiency programs and policies, and from warmer winter weather, appear to be the most important contributors to declining electricity use in the residential and commercial sectors.

This matches the ramp-up of energy efficiency savings from utility-sector energy efficiency programs, and from appliance and equipment efficiency standards that have taken effect since 2007.

Industry - more data needed

Further analysis and more data are needed to better understand the relative contribution of energy efficiency to declining electricity sales. In particular, we need to further examine what is occurring in the industrial sector. That analysis may need to wait for better industrial data to emerge.

Our results should be considered indicative, not definitive. Even so, our analysis suggests that energy efficiency has become an important factor in the level of US electricity consumption.



Steven Nadel is Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

This article is an abridged version of an article published on the ACEEE website.



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