Greater energy efficiency, along with outsourced heavy industry and customers generating their own power, have created flat demand for utility power for 10 years. Stagnant demand is likely for the foreseeable future.
That’s good news for consumers and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But utilities are having a tough time adjusting to this new business environment, as electricity demand had risen steadily for about a century.
There have been recent requests from utilities to bail out large coal and nuclear plants. It also has been tough for long-term planning. For instance, the Tennessee Valley Authority has found its 20-year forecasts obsolete almost as soon as they are released.
Some utility executives are nervous about what the future holds for their organizations. Utilities may need to make money through services rather than on investment returns on new generating capacity. Nevertheless, as a Vox article points out, more stringent energy codes and better efficiency technology produce multiple benefits for the country. Declining demand saves money, reduces pollution, and avoids the need for additional capital expenditures for expensive infrastructure.