With Americans largely self-isolating amid concerns about COVID-19, some of the hardest hit areas are already seeing electricity demand begin to weaken. Could this be a sign of things to come?
University of Chicago economist Steve Cicala examined what has happened to power demand in Northern Italy, which some say is about 11 days ahead of the U.S. trajectory of the novel coronavirus. An assistant professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, Cicala compiled regional grid data, adjusting for weather changes, and found that power demand has plunged in Northern Italy since the middle of February.
On Friday, Feb. 21, life in the region was largely normal. The following day, the Italian government began to institute quarantine measures. By Monday, power demand began to slow. As the chart below shows, there was then a bump in power just before the government instituted a national lockdown about two weeks later on March 10. About a week after that, power demand had fallen 18% compared to demand just prior to the quarantine measures.