Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 1

Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 1

The media has been vocal about the recent lack of growth in the use of electricity.

The immediate assumption has been that efforts to save on using electricity, such as with the internet of things, has caused nearly zero growth in consumption over the past several years.

But a more detailed analysis shows it has been the LED lamp  replacing incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps that is causing the current lack of growth in the use of electricity.

If LED lamps are the reason for the lack of growth in electricity consumption, then growth will resume along with the need for new power plants when the effect of the transition to LEDs ends.

The three questions covered in this article are:

  1. What effect are LEDs having on the consumption of electricity?
  2. How long will those effects last?
  3. What are policy implications, including the auctions conducted by RTO/ISOs?

Recent growth is shown in Figure 1.

Figure1: From IndexMundi: A data portal that gathers facts and statistics from multiple sources and turns them into easy to use visuals.


Recent growth has been in contrast to the growth from 1950 to 2000.

Figure2: Electricity generation from 1949 to 2000, from EIA Energy Review 2000

The compound annual growth rate from 1950 to 2000 was 4.8%, or nearly 5%.

However, growth slowed to 2.7 % between 1980 and 2000.

But why did growth in consumption fall to practically zero over the past few years, as shown by Figure 1?

It’s been suggested that zero growth is the new normal. But is that true, or merely hype?

Actually, it’s most likely because of the growth in LEDs, that didn’t begin until around 2010, preceded by another new technology, compact fluorescent lamps, that began in 1995.

Figure 3: Graph of electricity usage by type of lighting and by sector in 2010, from DOE 2010 Lighting Market Characterization report.
Incandescent is shown in brown, Fluorescent in blue and purple: Halogen in Orange: and HID in green: LED in yellow.
Interestingly, in 2010 LEDs were nearly insignificant.

Table 1 itemizes data from Figure 3.

The efficiency of LEDs and Fluorescent lamps, as compared with incandescent bulbs, will affect electricity usage:

  • LEDs use approximately 85% less electricity than an incandescent bulb
  • Fluorescent lamps use approximately 70% less electricity than an incandescent bulb

Based on these efficiencies, what is the effect of converting all incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps to LEDs?

From Table 2 it would appear as though replacing incandescent and fluorescents with LEDs would result in electricity usage being cut by 420TWh.

For several reasons, including lower cost savings and application requirements, it’s doubtful that all fluorescent lamps would be replaced by LEDs. Conversely, a few HIDs would be replaced by LEDs.

The estimated reduction of 420TWh is probably a safe estimate of the maximum reduction in the use of electricity as the result of LED conversions.

If so, the effect of LEDs can be demonstrated by applying the total reduction of 420 TWh to 2017’s consumption, bringing it down to 3,500 TWh.

In other words, if LEDs had replaced incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps in 2017, total consumption in 2017 would have been 3,500 TWh rather than 3,913 TWh.

Part 2 describes the effect of cutting consumption by 420 TWh, including its effect on policy issues.

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