US energy consumption lowest in more than 30 years in April

Published on August 10, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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The United States consumed 6.5 quadrillion British thermal units of energy in April, the lowest amount on record for a month since September 1989.

Energy consumption in April was 14 percent lower than it was in April 2019. That marks the largest monthly year-over-year decrease ever dating back to 1973. The previous high was a 10 percent monthly drop, which occurred in December 2001. March of this year was the third-largest monthly drop.

The decrease is due largely to the stay-at-home measures enacted across the country to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This caused a large drop in transportation, industrial, and commercial sector energy consumption.

Historically, energy consumption in April is low. In 14 of the past 20 years, April has had the lowest total energy consumption in the year. The mild temperatures reduce energy demand for both heating and cooling.

U.S. petroleum consumption fell 27 percent in April to 14.7 million b/d. It was the lowest monthly petroleum consumption in the United States since May 1983. Again, stay-at-home orders and other travel limitations were the chief culprits.

Electricity consumption fell 4 percent to 269 billion kilowatthours (kWh), mainly due to drops in the commercial and industrial sectors, which declined by 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Residential sector electricity consumption increased 8 percent to 97 billion kWh in April.

Natural gas consumption was actually up 2 percent in April to 74.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). This was due to a 15 percent spike in residential consumption of natural gas as more people were home during the month. Also, April was 24 percent colder than normal, which led to greater demand for residential heating.