One of the most significant changes from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the shift to remote work. The disruption of live-work patterns has had its own impact on other behaviors, such as energy use and generation.
A study by CommercialCafe, an online commercial real estate information source, examined the correlation between remote work and energy patterns in the United States as a result of the pandemic. The study found that energy consumption in all three sectors¾industrial, commercial and residential¾have been on the decline for the past 8 months, but are showing signs of upward growth.
Published Apr. 14, 2022, “U.S. Energy Production and Consumption in 2021: On its Way to Recovery, Commercial Usage Grows 3% Y-O-Y” analyzed national and state-level data on total and sector-wide energy sales from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The study made several significant findings. While American workers and the companies that employ them continue to adjust to the new normal of working from home, energy patterns are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. The study notes, for example, that commercial energy consumption in 2021 remains below pre-pandemic levels, although usage is on the rise. Annual energy sales for this segment grew by 37 million megawatt-hours (MWh), reaching 1.32 billion MWh at the end of 2021. This was the highest year-over-year increase across all three sectors.
It also notes an upward trend in the residential sector. Residential energy consumption shot up throughout the second and third quarters of 2020. Yearly household energy usage in 2021 increased by another 12 million MWh, for a 1.47 billion MWh annual total.
In the industrial sector, energy consumption followed an upward, uninterrupted trend starting in February 2021 that continued throughout the spring and summer. Overall energy sales for this segment totaled 987 million MWh in 2021, a 3% increase from the previous year.