As US Electricity Use Stalls, Utilities Scramble

Household use to expand just 0.7% per year: feds
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2013 6:12 AM CST
As US Electricity Use Stalls, Utilities Scramble
In this Aug. 25, 2011 file photo, an attorney holds an Apple iPad, left, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.   (AP Photo/dapd, Sascha Schuermann, File)

Sure, you're attached at the hip to your iPad and like to crank your air conditioner, but electricity guzzling isn't what it used to be in the US. In the middle of the 20th century, electricity use grew about 8% yearly; now, it's set to expand just 0.6% per year for industry and 0.7% per year for homes through 2040, according to federal assessments. Electricity use was once considered a good measure of economic growth—but perhaps not so anymore, particularly as manufacturers build devices that use less energy, the Wall Street Journal notes.

That leaves utility companies in a bind as they rush to reorganize their finances. Fearing a credit downgrade, Exelon is cutting spending on nuclear and renewable projects by some $1 billion each. And a number of companies are turning their focus from their unregulated operations to their more-profitable regulated efforts, like power transmission. Among the new strategies: investment in new high-voltage power lines, encouraged by regulators as a means of revamping the US power grid. "They don't see any light at the end of the tunnel and are making adjustments," says a consultant. (More electricity stories.)

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