3 years ago

American Electricity Consumers Are On A Diet

Corey Tyree, Ph.D., of Southern Research in Birmingham, AL‚a Sr. Policy Advisor for the Energy Institute of Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Whether it be food or energy or water, Americans are known for consuming more and more. There is at least one exception – electricity. In Alabama, and the U.S. as a whole, we are consuming less and less. Electricity consumption (as measured by electricity sales) has fallen nationally five of the past eight years and only increased 5 percent during the 2000s. Consumption in Alabama lags behind even that slow pace, with consumption actually decreasing 1 percent in the 2000s. And the recovery since the Great Recession has been no recovery at all for Alabama electricity suppliers with consumption of their product again declining (2.2 percent) in the period 2010-2015.

Electricity consumption once strongly correlated with economic growth. When the economy grew, so too did electricity consumption. This correlation had been weakening for decades. Never has this been more evident than in the most recent decade, which saw gross domestic product increase 15 percent while electricity consumption remained flat. Electricity consumption remained flat even as Americans built more homes, built larger homes, constructed new commercial building space, built new information technology infrastructure, migrated westward and southward where space heating and air conditioning is more heavily utilized, and spent more and more of our lives staring at large, bright screens.

These sources of additional electricity consumption are moderated, in some cases dwarfed, by other factors such as 1) building codes that include efficiency measures, 2) slowing population growth, 3) near market saturation of electric appliances, 4) energy efficiency standards (e.g. appliance efficiency standards), 5) success of utility demand-side management programs that resulted in greater adoption of energy efficiency measures, 6) distributed electrical generation (e.g. rooftop solar), and 7) structural changes in the economy to less energy-intensive industries.

The impact of these factors on electricity sales to the residential, commercial, and industrial segments is profound. Programs like U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR reduced electricity consumption an estimated 200 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Homeowners and commercial business owners alike are implementing more efficient technologies that require less electricity than existing stock. Publix reduced electricity usage by about 10 percent by replacing existing incandescent light bulbs with more efficient LED lights. Publix also installed 150,000 kilowatt-hours of distributed solar power generation, which further reduces the amount of electricity they demand from electric utilities. Even energy intensive industries such as steelmaking are finding a way to cut electricity consumption. Electricity consumption from U.S. steelmakers fell 5 percent from 2002 to 2012 even as cost considerations favored increasing production from efficient electric arc furnaces, which receive a greater proportion of their energy from electricity than basic oxygen furnaces. Going forward, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects the energy intensity of each of the residential, commercial, and industrial segments to continue to fall over the next 25 years.

Economists and other industry experts will tell you the decoupling of electricity consumption and economic growth should come as no surprise. This decoupling is the hallmark of advanced economies, they will tell you. Mature economies tend to require less and less energy to sustain themselves. The experts will point to other advanced economies such as some of the European Union member states (e.g. Belgium) or Japan and explain that electricity demand has also stagnated. While the situation may be old news, we sure do struggle to predict electricity demand for something so well understood. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has continuously revised downwards its electricity consumption projections over the last decade as it badly overestimated electricity demand growth. The most recent 2016 projections peg electricity sales growth at just 0.7 percent per year on average from 2016-2040, or similar to the 0.6 percent growth observed from 2000-2015.

Will the most recent projections of slow growth finally get it right? Electric utilities in Alabama seem to think so. In its most recent Integrated Resource Plan filing, Alabama Power Company states that “customer electrical requirements can be met reliably with the Company’s current supply-side and demand-side resources until 2035.” Likewise, Tennessee Valley Authority, in its most recent IRP filing, states there are “no immediate needs for new base load plants.” It was these same market realities that led TVA to deem the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant site as surplus and sell the plant to private developers. Just like Energy Information Administration, TVA and Alabama Power Company have revised their outlook for electricity demand downward relative to previous analysis, which is saying something because even the older analysis projected historically weak demand growth.

There is a lot we don’t know. Penetration of Distributed generation could accelerate the decline in electricity sales. Stronger than expected electric vehicle sales, economic growth, or full electrification of space heating could have the opposite effect and foster higher levels of electricity demand. Certainly, these things could happen, but that’s not what we should plan for when we have many decades of data suggesting this isn’t a short-term trend caused by year-to-year variation in weather or economic growth. The data suggest a long-term, consistent, and unmistakable reduction in electrical energy intensity across all segments caused by structural changes in our economy that appear irreversible.

Planning for less than 1 percent growth in electricity represents a new era in electric utility planning. Historically, electric utilities in the Southeast planned to add new generating capacity every few years to keep up with surging population and economic growth. This faster cadence of construction will be replaced in the new era of planning with a slower pace, one driven by the need to meet slow demand growth, replace the occasional plant retirement, and add new renewable resources to benefit customers.

 About the Author: Guest Contributor Corey Tyree, Ph.D., is Director of Energy & Environment at Southern Research and a Senior Policy Advisor for the Energy Institute of Alabama. The EIA’s mission is to promote reliable, affordable and clean energy to help grow our economy, create high-paying jobs, and build public support for Alabama’s energy industry. Learn more at www.energyinstituteal.org.


The opinions shared by guest contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Yellowhammer.

11 hours ago

Ivey visits hometown Camden to commemorate bicentennial — ‘Y’all, Alabama has come a long way’

CAMDEN — On Friday, on the eve of the culmination of Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration set to take place in Montgomery, Gov. Kay Ivey paid a visit to her hometown to take part in an event marking the milestone in her home county of Wilcox.

Not far from where Ivey attended high school as part of Wilcox County High School’s class of 1963, the governor participated in a ceremony that also included Camden Mayor Bill Creswell and Wilcox County Commissioner Bill Albritton.

After offering a list of the state’s achievements, Ivey remarked on how far Alabama had come.

322

“During these 200 years, Alabama has celebrated some pretty incredible people and milestones,” she said. “Building a rocket that took a man to the moon, our rich Native American history and culture, becoming the birthplace for civil rights, and becoming an international market for goods and products. Y’all, Alabama has come a long way.”

She also noted that the events leading up to the bicentennial celebration kicked almost immediately after she assumed the role governor in 2017 and led her to make at least one visit in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

While speaking to the press at the return to her hometown, Ivey expressed how great she felt about being back in her hometown and what her goals were as the state heads into its third century.

“We’re proud to be here in Wilcox County and in my hometown of Camden to celebrate the bicentennial of Wilcox County, and tomorrow we’ll celebrate the bicentennial of Alabama. It is sure great to be home,” Ivey stated.

“Certainly, we want to keep the economy going, keep the everybody working, get more people that are not working to work,” she continued. “We just want to make the quality of life in our state really good, so everybody has an opportunity to be and do what they want to do.”

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Ivey also offered some words of advice for her hometown and county in the pursuit of a better quality of life.

“Y’all just make this place an attractive place to live and do business, have a strong education system so people can put their children in schools, then in touch with the Department of Commerce to get prospects to look us over,” she said.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

11 hours ago

Three Crimson Tide players, Auburn’s Derrick Brown named Walter Camp All-Americans

University of Alabama football players Xavier McKinney, Jaylen Waddle and Jedrick Wills, Jr. have been named to the Walter Camp All-America second-team, while Auburn University’s Derrick Brown made the first-team.

McKinney is a safety, Waddle is a wide receiver selected to the team as a returner on special teams, Wills is an offensive tackle and Brown is a defensive tackle.

The Walter Camp Foundation announced the honors Thursday evening at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

273

McKinney, a junior, ranked 12th in the SEC in tackles with 85 through 12 games. He was also the Crimson Tide leader in tackles this season, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. He forced four fumbles and added three interceptions to go with five pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. The star defensive back also returned one of his interceptions for an 81-yard touchdown.

Waddle led the nation in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return with 19 for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77. The sophomore also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one score and added more than 53 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout this season. Earlier this week, he was selected as a first team All-American at returner by Pro Football Focus and named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Wills anchored an offensive line that has surrendered only 12 sacks in 381 pass attempts this season. He graded out at over 91% for the Tide along the front allowing only one sack all season and only 3.5 quarterback hurries while missing only seven assignments in 714 snaps for a success rate of 99.9%.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by both the conference coaches and The Associated Press.

This is the 130th edition of the Walter Camp All-America team, the nation’s oldest such team.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Marshall applauds federal court ruling that plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s minimum wage law lack standing

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State of Alabama on Friday, saying that the plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s 2016 minimum wage law lacked standing to file their racial discrimination claim against the Alabama Attorney General.

The law being challenged holds that no Alabama municipality can raise its minimum wage higher than the state of Alabama’s minimum wage. The law was enacted by the state legislature after Birmingham attempted to raise the minimum wage paid by businesses in the city to $10.1o per hour. The minimum wage in Alabama is $7.25 an hour. Twenty-two states have similar laws to the one on Alabama’s books.

164

In response to Alabama’s new law, the plaintiffs in question from Friday’s ruling filed a civil rights action in federal court arguing the law perpetuated white supremacy and violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Notably, the court did not rule on whether the equal protection claim had merit, but rather ruled that the suit was wrongfully being brought because their alleged damages were not “fairly traceable” to conduct by the AG.

“I am pleased with the 11th Circuit’s ruling today, which agreed with the State of Alabama that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue the Attorney General over their complaints about Alabama’s minimum wage law,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall.  “I also think the substance of the plaintiffs’ challenge lacked merit, but the court withheld judgment on that question because the plaintiffs failed to show that the Attorney General ever harmed them.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

13 hours ago

Black Belt Workforce Center opens in Demopolis

Private and public officials gathered in Demopolis Friday to announce the opening of the Black Belt Workforce Center.

The center will provide training for job seekers and employers, job application assistance, resume help and a computer lab. The center will also provide retraining and retooling for job seekers who were previously in the workforce but need help competing for the jobs available today.

“We knew that we needed to serve some of our most critical areas in Alabama by creating a center in the Black Belt. This is a place for both job hunters and employers to find resources to help them succeed,” said West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones.

313

The center is a collaboration between West Alabama Works, the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC), Central Alabama Works, and numerous governmental and nonprofit stakeholders in the area. It will be helmed by Tammi Holley.

The center is very close to the Alabama Department of Labor’s facility in the area, a department with which the training center plans to work in concert.

Jim Page is the CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, which houses West Alabama Works.

He told Yellowhammer, “Even though Alabama has got a very strong economy right now and we’ve got record low unemployment, there are still far too many people who are unemployed or underemployed.”

“A major reason for that is the lack of education, lack of training, and lack of certain skill sets needed to compete for jobs, or to get a better job. We’ve long felt it important to go into our more rural areas, particularly the black belt, to make the resources more readily available closer to the people, and meet them where they are,” Page added.

Unique among workforce development initiatives in Alabama is the partnership with a local drug prevention organization: The Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE). The Tuscaloosa-based PRIDE plans to work with the center to help increase drug prevention efforts in the surrounding community.

“One of the biggest problems that workforce development has is keeping kids where they can pass a drug screening,” Derrick Osborne, the Executive Director of PRIDE told Yellowhammer on the phone.

According to Osborne, PRIDE is “trying to help people understand addiction before they become addicted.”

He added, “We want to say, you don’t have to use a drug because you feel like there isn’t anywhere for you to go. There is hope, there are things to look forward to in your life.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

14 hours ago

Watch: Alabamians line up with American flags to welcome slain Naval ensign home

As seen in a video posted on Twitter, people lined the streets of Enterprise on Friday to welcome home Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.

Watson, a 23-year-old Coffee County native who also spent many of his formative years in Blount County, was killed in last week’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The hero’s body arrived at Dothan Regional Airport on Friday and then a procession took him to Searcy Funeral Home in Enterprise.

Considering Fort Rucker’s presence, the area has a high percentage of military families, making Watson’s murder that much harder on the Wiregrass community. People lined the procession route with American flags, honoring his service, sacrifice and life.

173

A public memorial service for Watson will take place at the Enterprise High School Performing Arts Center at 11:00 a.m. next Saturday, December 21.

Burial will be the following day at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags to half-staff on that day of internment: Sunday, December 22.

RELATED: How the hometown of a NAS Pensacola shooting hero is paying tribute to one of their own

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn