Electric sales to C&I sectors to average 1% annually through 2040, EIA finds - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Energy Efficiency, Industrial  -  June 16, 2016

Electric sales to C&I sectors to average 1% growth annually through 2040, EIA finds

Curbed by projected declines in energy intensity and increased penetration of rooftop solar over the coming decades, U.S. electricity sales to the commercial and industrial sectors are expected to rise at a rate of just 1% annually through 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

Overall in 2015, 3.7 trillion kWh of electricity were sold in the U.S., and total electricity sales, which includes the residential sector, are projected to rise 0.7% annually through the projection period to 2040, according to the EIA's most recent Annual Energy Outlook reference case. 

And while the residential sector currently purchases the most electricity — 38% of total sales in 2015 — electric sales to the commercial sector will surpass those to the residential sector in the early 2020s, according to the EIA. 

Broken down by segment, electricity sales to commercial consumers are projected to increase at an average annual rate of 0.8% from 2015 to 2040, according to the EIA. Commercial sector electricity intensity — which is calculated as electricity sales per square foot of floorspace — is projected to decline 0.3% per year as total commercial sector floorspace increases 1.1% per year. The EIA attributes the decline in electricity intensity to federal energy efficiency standards, as well as technological improvements in lighting, refrigeration, space heating and space cooling.

Electricity sales to industrial consumers are forecast to rise 1.1% per year on average, from 1.0 trillion kWh in 2015 to 1.2 trillion kWh in 2040. With the value of industrial shipments projected to grow 1.9% per year in the EIA's reference case, industrial sector electricity intensity — calculated as  electricity sales per dollar of industrial shipments — declines at an average annual rate of 0.8% from 2015 to 2040. The decline in projected electricity intensity results from the adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and structural changes in the economy toward less electricity-intensive industries, the EIA said in a recent blog post

Impact of accelerating adoption of rooftop solar

Bolstered by the recent extension of federal tax credits for residential and commercial solar photovoltaic systems and the declining cost for those system, the EIA has presumed increased adoption of residential and commercial PV in its reference case projection. The impact to electricity sales is notable, as the EIA writes: 

Total building PV capacity grows at 8.6% annually in the AEO2016 Reference case. Generation from residential PV systems reaches 90 billion kWh, and commercial system generation reaches 36 billion kWh by 2040. Residential and commercial electricity sales would be 5.0% and 1.7% higher, respectively, in 2040 without the electricity generated by rooftop PV systems.

The EIA's reference case, which reflects current laws and regulations, includes the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan. 

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