Electricity use slumps during pandemic

American Electric Power, the parent company to Public Service of Oklahoma reports a drop in the electricity use by its customers in 11 states during the month of April.

AEP confirmed weather-normalized retail load for April dropped 4.3% compared to April 2019 with a 6% increase in residential sales, most likely caused by stay-at-home orders during the COVID 19 pandemic.

AEP reported it experienced a 7.7% drop in commercial sales and a 10% drop in industrial load, again likely due to the closure of businesses as the pandemic gripped the world. Management at AEP indicated they expect residential sales for 2020 to increase 3% over the 2019 levels and believe there will be at least a 5.6% decline in commercial load growth and an 8% drop in industrial sales.

Though investor-owned utilities have thus far been shielded from the worst economic impacts of the pandemic and the oil crisis, executives on earnings calls have described the load disparities between residential customers stuck at home and using more electricity, and commercial and industrial customers who by and large have shuttered due to the virus.

“As many have heard, there is a famous boxing quote from Mike Tyson that is truly appropriate here, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth,'” American Electric Power Co. Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Nicholas Akins said on the company’s May 6 earnings call. “Well, that’s what we have faced in the end of this quarter and will face probably for the rest of the year.”

“Companies have generally been telling the same story … clearly, demand and load are being impacted from the one-two punch of mild winter weather and COVID,” Scotia Capital (USA) Inc. analyst Andrew Weisel said in a May 7 interview.

Declines were also indicated by Oklahoma Gas and Electric for April but specifics were not available.

“Commercial, industrial and oilfield were down and residential was higher in April, as expected. We won’t know the true impact of the virus until later in the year. It’s also important to note that April is an insignificant earnings month for OG&E,” stated Senior Communications Specialist David A. Kimmel in an email to OK Energy Today.