Electricity sales fall 1.1% in 2015, the fifth time in eight years: US EIA

By: Bob Matyi |

Electricity sales in 2015 totaled about 3.72 billion kWh, down 1.1% from 2014, driven by a decline in sales in the Midwest, the US Energy Information Administration said Monday. The year-on-year dip is the fifth time sales have fallen in eight years.

In its report, EIA attributed much of the fall to industrial-sector declines “and little or no growth in sales to the residential and commercial-building sectors,” despite a rise in the number of residential households and overall commercial building space.

Declining power-growth rates reflect a number of factors, EIA said, including market saturation and increasing efficiency of electricity-using equipment, a slowing rate of economic growth and the changing composition of the economy, with a reduction in electricity-intensive manufacturing.

In many states, regulators have pushed utilities to offer more energy efficiency programs to customers, resulting in lower power demand, EIA said.

“These programs may, for example, provide households and businesses with energy audits and significant rebates for the purchase of more-efficient equipment,” EIA said. “Some states have adopted more-stringent building energy codes that can reduce the amount of energy needed for heating, cooling and other purposes,” EIA said in the report.

Between 2007 and 2015, electricity sales to the residential sector accounted for 37.7% of all retail electricity sales, but growth in that sector has stayed largely flat.

Meanwhile, growth in power sales to commercial buildings averaged 1.1% a year over 2000-2015 and represented 36.5% of retail electricity use in 2015, up from a 35.6% share in 2007.

But electricity sales to industry fell at an average rate of 0.7% a year from 2000 to 2015, EIA said, as the sector’s share of total retail electricity sales tumbled to 25.6% from 31.2%.

Historically, EIA noted, industrial sector power use has been sensitive to economic conditions, as the industry responds to changing demand for goods.

During the economic crisis of 2008-2009, for example, the sector experienced a 9.1% year-on-year decline in electricity use, and sales have fallen at an an average rate of 0.9% a yea from their 2007 peak to 2015.

Electricity-intensive industries have grown at about the same pace as the rest of the industrial sector, EIA said, and efficiency improvements in these industries have contributed to declining electricity sales to industry.

The aluminum smelting industry has been among the hardest hit over the past several years, with energy-intensive smelters in Ohio and Missouri closing in 2013 and earlier this year, respectively. Other smelters in Kentucky and South Carolina cut operations last year. Often, smelters have around-the-clock load that exceeds 500 MW, typically making them the largest single-site energy user in a state.

EIA statistics show electricity sales declined in 2015 in the East-North Central region states of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, as well as the West North Central region of Minnesota, Iowa and Kansas, but sales rose slightly in the Middle Atlantic states of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, as well as the New England states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Electricity sales fall 1.1% in 2015, the fifth time in eight years: US EIA