Starting on March 22, 2020, the State of New York closed all nonessential businesses to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. To investigate the effects of these shutdowns on electricity demand, Concentric Energy Advisors (“Concentric”) reviewed nine weeks of New York Independent System Operator (“NYISO”) hourly load data for March 1 through May 2, 2020, including the six weeks of full state shutdown spanning March 22 through May 2, 2020. The load data from this period of demand was compared to similar data from the prior three years, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Concentric analyzed load data for each of NYISO’s eleven zones separately, as load shifts and reductions associated with COVID-19 closures can be expected to vary depending on the proportion of commercial load in each region. In addition, we applied sequencing adjustments to the hourly load data for 2017, 2018 and 2019 to align their days of the week to the 2020 calendar.
The effects of COVID-19 related closures on electricity demand are most stark for New York City, the epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
While our comparison does not adjust for weather differences or differences in customer-owned solar generation between prior years, New York City (NYISO Zone J) COVID-19 related load reduction trends are evident. The chart below compares real time hourly load data for March/April 2020 to the high/low intervals for the same period in the prior three years. In Week 1 (March 1 – 7), electrical loads appear near or below the prior three-year minimum. Noticeable load reduction/deviation from the prior three-year minimum is apparent starting in Week 3 (March 15 – March 21) commensurate with school closures. This increasing deviation from the prior year minimum becomes more prominent and consistent during the full shutdown starting on March 22 at the beginning of Week 4 (March 22 – March 28).
Under business-as-normal conditions, electrical load typically decreases from Week 1 (March 1 – March 7) to Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) with increasing spring temperatures and daylight hours, as shown by gray lines in the chart below, representing hourly average load for the prior three years. The decline in demand and energy consumption between Week 1 (March 1 – March 7) and Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) this spring is more pronounced than the average decline experienced in the prior three years. Maximum demand decreased from Week 1 (March 1 – March 7) to Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) by 20% in 2020 compared to an average reduction of 7% for the prior three years. Energy consumption decreased from Week 1 (March 1 – March 7) to Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) by 17% in 2020 compared to an average reduction of 9% for the prior three years.
To estimate 2020 Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) electrical loads that might have occurred under typical, business-as-normal conditions, Concentric applied the prior three-year average percentage reductions observed between Week 1 (March 1 – March 7) and Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) demand and energy to 2020 Week 1 (March 1 -March 7) observed demand and energy amounts, respectively.
The charts below compare New York City demand and energy for each day in 2020 Week 9 (April 26 – May 2), the sixth week of the full shutdown, to expected demand and energy under business-as-normal conditions for the same period. The comparison of these two cases illustrates how electrical load for the New York City zone has both decreased and shifted as COVID-19 has forced businesses and schools to shut down, and many New York City residents have left the city. Maximum demand for Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) is down 14%, with demand reduction being greater for weekdays during daytime hours. Total energy for Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) is down 8% from expected consumption under business-as-normal conditions. Daily load profiles have flattened as nighttime load changes have been much smaller than those observed during daytime hours, and differentials between weekdays and weekends have diminished, providing quantitative support for why time under quarantine may feel like Groundhog Day.
Demand and energy reductions have also been observed in Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) for the surrounding downstate Dunwoodie zone (Zone I), but not in Millwood (Zone H) or Long Island (Zone K). Demand and energy reductions have also been observed in Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) for the West zone (Zone A).
Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) demand and energy levels have not declined from expected levels under business-as-normal conditions and total energy consumption and maximum demand, to a lesser degree, may have increased in the Mohawk Valley (Zone E), Capital (Zone F), Hudson Valley (Zone G), Millwood (Zone H), and Long Island (Zone K). This suggests that reduced commercial load from COVID-19 related shutdowns is being countered by an increased residential load in suburban locations driven by changes in behavior under quarantine, such as purchasing of second freezers to store more food between less frequent grocery shopping, working from home, home schooling, increased stay-at-home activities that are energy intensive, like bread baking or growing seedlings indoors.
One common observable trend is that load is shifting away from Friday and Saturday to other days of the week. The severe reduction in Saturday morning load is particularly interesting, suggesting that people are tending to sleep in later on Saturdays or occupying their Saturday mornings with activities that require minimum power consumption.
While almost no change in Week 9 (April 26 – May 2) demand and energy levels have been observed in Genesee (Zone B), Central (Zone C), and North (Zone D) from expected levels under business-as-normal conditions, the load is still shown shifting away from Friday and Saturday mornings to other days of the week.
Concentric will continue to monitor NYISO load data trends during these unprecedented times as New York State moves towards summer months and partial re-openings of nonessential businesses, which could start after May 15, 2020 for certain upstate regions that meet required benchmarks, if the “NY on PAUSE” Executive Order 202.8 is not further extended. Schools and colleges in the state of New York will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and will continue with distance learning to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
All views expressed by the author are solely the author’s current views and do not reflect the views of Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., its affiliates, subsidiaries, or related companies. The author’s views are based upon information the author considers reliable. However, neither Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., nor its affiliates, subsidiaries, and related companies warrant the information’s completeness or accuracy, and it should not be relied upon as such.