Energy Usage: How Covid-19 Can Teach Us a Lesson

By: Shalini Patel

How can everyday life be stopped so quickly and how does that impact energy usage across the country and the world? The COVID-19 virus is currently creating one of the largest economic disruptions the world has experienced and it will not stop there. The healthcare industry will be completely different after this is over and the way public policy is designed will be changed forever. Among the drastic changes many industries are bound to experience as a result of this virus, is the energy industry. With flights being cancelled, malls closing, busy restaurants being shut down, and most importantly the strict lockdown put in place by the United States and other countries, the effect on energy usage is tremendous.  The results of some research already being conducted regarding the effect COVID-19 has had on the environment and the way in which people are now using energy, is shocking to me. It has been found that the United States has not used this little energy in 16 years. Although many people are stuck at home and because of that more electricity and water is being used per household, it is very miniscule compared to the total energy use throughout the whole country. Hundreds of factories have been shut down, industrial activity and offices have closed, and government restrictions means that people are not able to travel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), it is expected that total U.S. power consumption will decrease by 3% just in 2020. On top of that, The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has also claimed to see an 18% to 21% reduction in peak demand and energy use, specifically in Italy after the lockdown had begun. That large of a decrease is something we cannot ignore. Although there will be negative impacts in the energy industry in terms of revenue as the need for energy decreases, the impact on the environment has been relatively positive. According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, driving and aviation contribute approximately 72% and 11% of greenhouse 

gas emissions respectively. This is a large part of the transport sector and one thing we have learned is that it is vital that we decrease greenhouse gas emissions if we want to start making an impact on climate change. As a result, recognizing what we can do after social distancing comes to a cease, is also imperative. Before we rush into leaving our homes right away and meeting up with friends to hang out, and before we start trying to live our lives the way we did before COVID-19, let us remember how we can use this time to benefit the future. With most of us stuck at home right now, it is the perfect time to brainstorm ideas. For example, we can think about how to change current energy policies to potentially decrease things like greenhouse gases in the future. Obviously reductions will not be nearly as low as they currently are considering the situation, however, it is something worth considering. Another aspect that can be changed to improve energy efficiency is to think about transportation. It was mentioned earlier how impactful driving a car can be on the level of greenhouse gases present. Considering this point, it would be extremely beneficial if people travelled with more discretion. Ultimately, at the end there are many sides of this argument that should be considered, however, this is one side people should start thinking about.  With COVID-19 having an immense presence in our lives today, it is important to look at the positives and remember that there is a large lesson that can be taught from what is happening. The energy industry will be changing immensely after this time and now is the time where policies can be altered to make an overall difference. It will not be easy considering losses in revenue in the energy sector, however, there are definitely things that can be done to address both sides. It is up to us now, on how we proceed to act on that lesson. 

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