Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 2

Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 2

Perhaps a better title would have been, Effects of the LED Revolution.

In Part 1 we saw that if LEDs had replaced virtually all incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps in 2017, total consumption in 2017 would have been 3,500 TWh rather than 3,913 TWh.

The result is shown in Figure 4 by the arrow.

Figure 4: Arrow shows effect if incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps had all been replaced by LEDs in 2017, with resulting consumption of 3,500 TWh.


Assuming the growth rate in consumption that existed from 1980 to 2000 of 2.7% resumes after 2017, it will require approximately five years for consumption to return to the actual 2017 level of 3,913 TWh.(See, Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 1)

If some of the conversion to LEDs had taken place before now, or it turns out the ultimate conversion is less than 420 TWh, it could take less than five years to return to the same level of consumption as in 2017.

Meanwhile, the 2.7% growth trend for increased use of electricity would resume. See Part 1,

The 1980 to 2000, annual growth rate of 2.7% reflects the underlying growth in electricity usage.

(This period at the end of the 20th century reflects population growth of approximately 1%, the growth in computers, data centers and cell phones, offset in part  by the  effect of the Energy Star program.)

The growth rate had fallen from nearly 5% in 1950, which reflected a period during which new appliances and technologies, e.g., air-conditioning and TV, were being introduced as part of the postwar boom.


LEDs have been the true energy revolution, far surpassing all other attempts to reduce the use of electricity.

But, importantly, the LED revolution is taking place very rapidly and its effects will be felt quickly.

Transitioning from incandescent bulbs and fluorescent lamps to LEDs has important implications for what we will need in terms of new power plants.

  • It means we are not in a new normal where new power generation requirements will be small … or nonexistent.
  • Rather, it means we are in a holding pattern while the transition to LEDs takes place and that the growth rate for new power generation will resume in about five years.
  • In addition, the growth rate for new generation capacity could increase after 2022 if electric vehicles become a larger factor in transportation.
  • It also means that wind turbines or solar installations won’t be sufficient to provide the power we will need. This is especially true since the increase in consumption will be at night when lighting is needed, which is when solar doesn’t provide electricity after the sun sets.

Finally, it is another reason why it is a mistake to allow nuclear and coal-fired power plants to be closed now, as a result of the rigged RTO/ISO auction system.

Nuclear plants will be needed after 2022.

. . .

2 Replies to “Growth in Electricity Consumption – Part 2”

  1. All good points Donn.

    Lighting does have an impact however unless in a commercial building with long periods of use, home lighting’s impact on consumption is marginable.

    High performance building in both rehab and new construction will continue to cut into consumption as do high efficiency replacements of old air conditioning equipment. The improvement in efficiency replacing old AC equipment can show an improvement of 35% and higher on electricity consumption specially when equipped with ECM motors.

    Also, ductless mini splits heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps that have much higher SEER and COP’s reduce consumption considerably.
    Building performance and heating and cooling equipment efficiency belong in this conversation.

    • Air conditioning A/C is important in its own right.
      Please note from Table 1, that the effect of LEDs on usage is disproportionately larger for residential than for commercial. The major reason for this is that commercial is already using fluorescent lighting that has a substantial savings in electricity use.
      The major factors between LEDs and A/C are: First, the size of the change, a roughly 80% reduction in the use of electricity with LEDs: Second, the rapidity with which the change is happening. Incandescent bulbs are replaced in a couple of years while A/C units last 15 to 20 years.
      Heating is a somewhat different category.
      It must be looked at from the perspective of natural gas heating in a separate category, and heat-pumps in another, subdivided into a couple of additional categories. These might include, heat-pumps that are integral with air-conditioning units and those that are independent heat-pumps with coils under the ground.
      There’s also the issue of the added size and cost, and possible loss in efficiency, resulting, during the 90’s and early 2000’s, from the shift from Freon.
      Energy savings are good no matter what the technology causing them, assuming the costs for achieving the savings are warranted.
      The issue I was addressing was the unwarranted closure of nuclear and other power plants that will have to be replaced in a few years when the growth in electricity usage resumes.

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