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U.S. Power Demand Won’t Recover To Pre-Pandemic Level Until 2022

U.S. electricity consumption is recovering from the lows seen during the peak of the pandemic last year, but a full recovery to the 2019 levels will only be seen next year, Lynn Good, president and chief executive officer of one of the biggest U.S. utilities, Duke Energy, told Yahoo Finance this week.

Duke Energy suffered a decline in electric usage driven by a fall in demand from industrial customers, as well as commercial customers such as colleges, universities, and restaurants, Good said.

For the whole year of 2020, the decline in electricity load was about 3 percent, although at the start of the pandemic, it was 10-15 percent at industrial customers, she added.

Duke Energy serves some 7.8 million customers across six states in the Midwest and the South.  

Going forward, Duke Energy is optimistic about electricity demand recovery.

"We are optimistic about the rebound," Good told Yahoo Finance.

"But we still believe it's going to take us until 2022 to get back to 2019 levels."

This year, signs have already started to emerge that the American economy is accelerating, which is expected to result in a rebound in electricity use. Related: IEA: Electric Vehicle Sales Are Soaring Globally

"Amid progress on vaccinations and strong policy support, indicators of economic activity and employment have strengthened," the Fed said in its FOMC statement this week, adding that it would continue with its easy monetary policy to support the economy and the flow of credit to U.S. households and businesses.

U.S. real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021, according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Thursday. In the fourth quarter of 2020, real GDP increased 4.3 percent.

The EIA forecasts in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) that electricity consumption in the United States would increase by 2.1 percent this year, after falling by 3.8 percent in 2020. Electricity sales to the industrial sector are set to grow by 4.2 percent, while retail sales of electricity to the commercial sector will increase by 0.7 percent in 2021, thanks to improving economic conditions. For 2022, the EIA expects U.S. electricity consumption will grow by another 1.3 percent.

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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