What Comes Down, Must Go Up

Electric sales are falling from pandemic social distancing and the impact on the economy. Right?

That’s what you’ve heard from everyone and that’s what recent editions of Fortnightly Electricity Reports have shown. And that’s what the Energy Information Administration is predicting in its latest short-term energy outlook for this summer and autumn.

But, guess what? It isn’t necessarily true. Electric sales were falling. But that was before they began rising.

For instance, during the four weeks of April 29 through May 26, electric sales in the continental U.S. were 263 million megawatt-hours and down by a remarkable 7.3 percent year-over-year.

However, as many states have been easing social distancing, electric sales during the four-week period of May 27 through this Tuesday, June 23, were 313 million megawatt-hours and almost exactly equal to sales in the same period of last year.

Over the last two weeks, electric sales in the PJM and MISO regions were up 3.3 percent and 2.6 percent respectively. Which really matters since these areas accounted for thirty-six percent of continental U.S. electric sales.

As we move into the hot summer months, when electric sales are naturally highest during the year, will electric sales continue to keep pace with what they were last year? If so, the electric sales dip of April and May will not be as consequential to utilities reaching for their annual revenue requirement targets.

That is, assuming all but a few customers pay their electric bills. That’s unlikely during the pandemic though and is another story for another day.