Using less electricity

Mary Walden says she’s running out of electrical outlets at home. “Between our appliances, TVs, computers, and smartphones, it seems like we don’t have an available plug. And I’m guessing we’re not alone. I imagine our nation’s electricity use must be skyrocketing. Am I correct?” Her husband, N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, responds.

“Well … you always know that I don’t like to correct you. But in this case, you’re actually wrong, although I think you’re coming from a very sound basis. Actually, actually electrical usage in our country has been falling since 1998. I was actually shocked when I saw that statistic.

“A couple of reasons here. One is less manufacturing, I should say. Manufacturing in our country is a big user of electricity, and our manufacturing plant, if you will, has been shrinking. So that’s a big reason why our electricity usage has been going down.

“Second big reason is efficiency. All of those appliances, and computers, and TVs, and even smartphones you mentioned, they’re becoming more efficient users of electricity.

“Now many people see this lower electricity usage as a big plus for the environment, and it is. But it also presents big problems for electric providers. Electric providers, the utilities if you will, must build generation capacity to meet peak demand. So if they sell less, this is going to dramatically hurt their bottom line.

“Now I think a big change, a big game changer, if you will, that could alter how much electricity we’re using is if we were able to move much more aggressively to electrically powered vehicles. Then I think we would see a shift and see electric usage go up.”


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