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Power and the Pandemic: Exploring Global Changes in Electricity Demand During COVID-19

By Elizabeth Buechler, Siobhan Powell, Tao Sun, Chad Zanocco, Nicolas Astier, Jose Bolorinos, June Flora, Hilary Boudet and Ram Rajagopal


Understanding how efforts to limit exposure to COVID-19 have altered electricity demand provides insights not only into how dramatic restrictions shape electricity demand but also about future electricity use in a post-COVID-19 world. We develop a unified modeling framework to quantify and compare electricity usage changes in 58 countries and regions around the world from January-May 2020. We find that daily electricity demand declined as much as 10% in April 2020 compared to modelled demand, controlling for weather, seasonal and temporal effects, but with significant variation. Clustering techniques show that four impact groups capture systematic differences in timing and depth of electricity usage changes, ranging from a mild decline of 2% to an extreme decline of 26%. These groupings do not align with geography, with almost every continent having at least one country or region that experienced a dramatic reduction in demand and one that did not. Instead, we find that such changes relate to government restrictions and mobility. Government restrictions have a non-linear effect on demand that generally saturates at its most restrictive levels and sustains even as restrictions ease. Mobility offers a sharper focus on electricity demand change with workplace and residential mobility strongly linked to demand changes at the daily level. Steep declines in electricity usage are associated with workday hourly load patterns that resemble pre-COVID weekend usage. Quantifying these impacts is a crucial first step in understanding the impacts of crises like the pandemic and the associated societal response on electricity demand

Topics: Physics - Physics and Society, Electrical Engineering and Systems Science - Systems and Control
Year: 2020
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