Two years into COVID-19, the city that never sleeps starts to wake up early
In 2020, our research shows lockdowns caused by COVID-19 Significant increase in electricity usage in an apartment in New York City. Now that we have entered the “new normal”, how has this energy balance changed? Our latest results show that electricity use at home is still higher than it was before the pandemic — likely due to continued work-from-home arrangements — but New Yorkers have returned to their early morning routines.
Our findings are based on our Multifamily Residential Electricity Dataset (MFRED), a publicly available database that tracks electricity usage in 390 Manhattan apartments. MFRED tracks not only how much electricity we use, but what uses (for example, space heaters vs. electronics).
The impact of COVID on household electricity consumption varies at different times of the day and year. For this analysis, we looked specifically at daily consumption patterns on weekdays from April 1-28, 2019 (as a pre-COVID baseline), 2020 (after Manhattan began its lockdown), 2021, and 2022. We chose April for this analysis because during the off-season, the effects of different weather on electricity usage are minimized, revealing the effects of interest more clearly.
Even as early as April 2020, just a few weeks after the Manhattan lockdown went into effect, we observed a 50% increase in the number of vacant apartments based on consumption patterns. This reflects the fact that many people who were lucky enough to be able to leave their Manhattan apartments did so early in the pandemic. To correct for this effect in subsequent analyses, we removed vacant apartments from the analysis (9% in 2019, 15% in 2020, 12% in 2021 and 9% in 2022).
Next, we isolate any general trends in electricity usage that are not related to COVID. For example, at 10 p.m. — a time when most people are at home, with or without stay-at-home orders, but still regularly awake with lights — we observe a small but systematic increase in energy use from 2019 to 2022 The decline averaged 17 watts per person. year (3.7% of the 2019 baseline).This downward trend may be related to changes in energy efficiency: for example, if each apartment were to replace only one incandescent bulb with an LED bulb per year, this would lead to energy saving we observe.For the specific apartments in our dataset, part of the downward trend may indeed be due to deliberate intervention: about one-fifth of our dataset of 390 apartments is being received as part of our DOE-funded research project since 2016 a novel form ecological feedback: An email message that provides residents with personalized information, including their own spending patterns compared to their neighbors, the impact this has on the environment, and tips and tricks on how to achieve savings.
After normalizing this trend, total average daily electricity consumption increased by 11% in April 2020 from the 2019 baseline, by 9% in 2021, and still by 7% in 2022. In addition, the midday load is 26%, which is 24% and 12% higher than the 2019 baseline in 2020, 2021 and 2022, respectively. This shows that even two years after COVID first appeared, the number of people working from home has continued to grow.This is the same as recent investigative reports Many Manhattan office employees are still on mixed schedules. Consistent with the increase in working from home, the energy usage data at 4 a.m., when electronic devices are most heavily loaded in standby mode, indicate an increase in the contribution of computers, Wi-Fi routers, etc. to overall household electricity usage.
However, while the morning load started to increase at 7am in 2019, after a full hour at 8am in 2020 and 7.30am in 2021, the increase returned to 7am in 2022, as observed in 2019 That way. It appears that the continuing trend of increased working from home has not been accompanied by a continuing shift in home waking patterns, likely due to mixed work arrangements and a return to in-person schooling.
While the number of people working in-person in Manhattan and elsewhere is expected to continue to increase, work-from-home arrangements will continue to increase energy costs for households and multifamily housing. With the threat of a sharp rise in heating costs heading into winter, we need to pay particular attention to any potential impact on already economically vulnerable households.
Christopher Mylenken is the Principal Investigator Sustainability Policy and Management Research Program at the Columbia Climate School; he is also an Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. Patricia Cooligan He is the Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame and the founding Associate Director of the Columbia Institute for Data Science.
The work presented here is part of an ongoing multidisciplinary research project since 2016 supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the Office of Building Technologies’ BENEFIT program, award number DE-EE-0007864 .