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US Demand for Electricity Falls Further: What Does it Mean?

US Demand for Electricity Falls Further: What Does it Mean?

Layoffs at GE Power, for example.

The weekend started Friday night with layoff news from GE’s power division, in two locations.

First, there was Greenville County, South Carolina, where GE Power is one of the largest employers with 3,400 workers.

“Based on the current challenges in the power industry and a significant decline in orders, GE Power continues to transform our new, combined business to better meet the needs of our customers,” GE’s statement said in flawless corporate speak: “As we have said, we are working to reduce costs and simplify our structure to better align our product solutions, and these steps will include layoffs.”

GE Power has not disclosed the number of workers that are part of this layoff. The facilities make large gas turbines and turbine generator sets used by power plants. The plant also makes wind turbines.

Then there was GE Power’s facility in Schenectady, New York, which announced the layoff of an undisclosed number of employees, blaming “a significant decline in orders.”

GE Power has a problem: Electricity consumption in the US peaked in 2007 and has declined since, despite population growth of about 24 million people over the 10 years and despite economic growth.

The chart below, based on data from the Department of Energy’s EIA, shows annual electricity generation from 2001 through 2016. Note the growth in generation through 2007, the plunge during the Financial Crisis, the recovery, and the uneven decline since:

This trend continues in 2017. On Friday, the EIA released its Electric Power Monthly, with power generation data through September 2017. Over these nine months, electricity generation has fallen by 2.6% compared to the same period a year ago. Part of the year-over-year drop in August and September was due to the damaged electric grid in the areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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