Working Papers

Non-Technical Abstract

WP-030: Lucas Davis, "Evidence of a Decline in Electricity Use by U.S. Households" (May 2017)

Americans tend to use more and more of everything. As incomes have risen, we buy more food, live in larger homes, travel more, spend more on health care, and, yes, use more energy. Between 1950 and 2010, U.S. residential electricity consumption per capita increased 10-fold, an annual increase of 4% per year.

But that electricity trend has changed recently. American households use less electricity than they did five years ago. Consumption dipped significantly in 2012 and has remained flat, even as the economy has improved considerably. The decrease has been experienced broadly, in virtually all U.S. states and across all seasons of the year. This pattern stands in sharp contrast to steady increases throughout previous decades and has significant implications for household budgets, energy markets, and the environment.

So what is different? In a new paper, Lucas Davis (UC Berkeley) points to energy-efficient lighting. Over 450 million LEDs have been installed to date in the United States, up from less than half a million in 2009, and nearly 70% of Americans have purchased at least one LED bulb. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are even more common, with 70%+ of households owning some CFLs. All told, energy-efficient lighting now accounts for 80% of all U.S. lighting sales.