Powering Down: Covid-19 Impacts Energy Use


With most of Texas under stay-at-home orders for the past few weeks during the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a change in demand patterns on the state's power grid. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released its first Covid-19 assessment last week, and it showed that weekly energy use was down by about two percent during the last two weeks of March, when stay-at-home orders were taking effect. The assessment also found that morning energy load (between 6 and 10 a.m.) was 6-10 percent lower than normal.

For now, the Covid-19 impacts bear watching, but no conclusions have been reached. "It's still too soon for us to say how people working from home has impacted energy use," says Steven Greenley, VP of Gas Operations for CenterPoint Energy. "A lot of large buildings and schools are using less energy these days since they're not heavily populated, so for any increases there may be corresponding decreases."

ERCOT will continue to release weekly assessments of energy usage patterns during the Covid-19 pandemic, and plans to make any necessary changes to its summer load forecast in May. But Greenley doesn't predict the current situation will result in any strain on the grid. "Our systems are designed to be resilient, and our engineering teams are confident in our ability to continue to serve regardless of how the usage patterns may change," he says. "We're in close coordination regularly with leaders at ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas to ensure the grid can supply what we need."


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