Bigger homes, more gadgets not stopping drop in power use

HOUSTON — Americans are using more gadgets, but we’re buying less power.

U.S. electricity sales are on track to fall again in 2013, which would mark the fifth time in six years that Americans have bought less power, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The only recent year when electricity sales increased was in 2010, the agency said.

Despite a growing number of homes, new commercial real estate and a trend of larger houses,  electricity use has remained on a steady slide. The nation’s power consumption dropped nearly 6 percent to 3.7 trillion kilowatt-hours between 2003 and 2012.

The residential sector, the nation’s largest power consumer, cut electricity use by about 8 percent between 2003 and 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The commercial sector reduced power use by 11 percent during that period. The industrial sector saw a 3 percent drop.

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The drop in electricity sales is most likely a result of greater efficiency, partially driven by federal standards for appliances and lighting, the agency said. Other improvements involving insulation have reduced power sales related to heating and cooling.

Another possible cause for the drop in electricity sales is likely the greater use of rooftop solar panels, the agency said.

“The impact is difficult to measure because residential and commercial solar electricity generation data are not readily available,” the agency said. “Growing installed capacity of behind-the-meter sources of generation (largely from rooftop solar) is displacing some electricity sales that would otherwise occur.”

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