Economy drives electric power use down in Southeast

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | April 30, 2009 | Coal, Energy Policy, Nuclear

Electric power use in the southeast declined over the last year three times more than the national average, according to the March 2009 Electric Power Monthly report. Looking at the electric power sector only, electric power demand dropped by 2.7% in 2008. Presumably the economic downturn is the reason for this dramatic drop in power consumption. Now there is even more reason to cancel plans for new coal plants such as Plant Washington in Georgia and Duke Energy’s Cliffside Unit 6 in North Carolina.

Electric power use declines in Southeast faster than national average

Electric Power Use (GWh)
State 2007 2008 Change
4 Virginia 75,493 70,207 -7.0%
7 Georgia 139,949 131,921 -5.7%
12 Tennessee 92,598 88,878 -4.0%
15 North Carolina 127,936 124,204 -2.9%
16 Mississippi 48,145 46,763 -2.9%
18 Florida 220,453 215,790 -2.1%
20 South Carolina 101,387 99,994 -1.4%
39 Alabama 139,180 142,221 +2.2%
Southeast 945,141
U.S. Total


Considering that the decline in electricity use became more precipitous later in 2008 and continues into 2009, the forecast demand used to justify the construction of major power plants across the Southeast has been set back by at least 3 years. This is because power demand had been forecast to increase by about 2% in 2008, so actual energy use in 2008 was about 5% less than forecast energy use to justify new power plant construction. The decline of about 25,000 GWh in electricity use is roughly equivalent to the output of four coal plants the size of Duke Energy’s Cliffside unit; add to that the lack of anticipated growth (roughly 20,000 GWh) and energy use is off by the equivalent of seven coal plants across an eight-state region.

In North Carolina in particular, with Jim Rogers espousing on 60 Minutes that he can’t not build the new Cliffside coal plant, this data is damning.  Moving forward with construction of a new facility when demand is dropping, the climate crisis is more urgent now than ever to address, and the costs of new plants are skyrocketing, is simply irresponsible.

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