Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Residential electricity consumption rose 10% in the second quarter as the pandemic kept many people at home, new research shows.

Why it matters: The new paper from Tufts University economist Steve Cicala is another window onto how COVID-19 is shifting energy use patterns and creating financial hardship.

By the numbers: The average monthly power bill rose by almost $11 per household in April-July.

  • But "one fifth of the population is serviced by a utility whose mean bill has risen by at least $20/month," writes Cicala, who's also affiliated with the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute.
  • Overall, this extra energy cost U.S. households almost $6 billion in the April-July stretch.

The big picture: Cicala notes that remote work has benefits including less gasoline use, less time driving and reduced transportation emissions.

  • But looking at that alone misses an "important part of the calculation," he said in a statement alongside the paper, noting the future of remote work is "not as green as one might think."
  • "Just as dense cities are more energy efficient than suburbs, it requires more energy to power many, many homes than to power single office buildings."
  • "The trend toward working from home could increase emissions from the power sector on net."

What's next: Some amount of remote work will outlast COVID-19.

The paper notes that a "mixed work format based on part-time work from home entails higher power demand, as both offices and homes will be simultaneous drawing additional power."

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 21, 2020 - Energy & Environment

A big renewables deal: Iberdrola's Avangrid to buy PNM Resources

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Avangrid, a subsidiary of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola, is buying the big New Mexico-based power company PNM Resources in a $4.3 billion deal.

Why it matters: The companies said the deal, valued at $8.3 billion including debt, will form the third-largest renewable power company in the United States.

12 hours ago - Axios Events

Watch: How the pandemic has changed the energy industry

Axios will host a conversation on Wednesday, October 28 at 12:30pm ET on how the pandemic has affected the environment and the energy industry and how these shifts will have a lasting impact on the private sector's approach to renewable energy, featuring Sunrun co-founder and CEO Lynn Jurich and New York's Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment Ali Zaidi.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
20 hours ago - Energy & Environment

U.S. cities' lagging climate progress

Expand chart
Reproduced from a Brookings Institution report; Chart: Axios Visuals

A just-published Brookings Institution analysis of U.S. cities' pledges to cut carbon emissions reveals very mixed results.

Why it matters: The potential — and limits — of city and state initiatives have gotten more attention amid President Trump's scuttling of Obama-era national policies.

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