State of Northwest Utilities in 2019

Flat load growth continues and on site solar takes off

Seattle at night

In a presentation to the Council’s power committee, Economics Analysis Manager Massoud Jourabchi briefed members on the state of the region’s energy markets. The analysis is used in forecasting future electricity loads for the Council’s 2021 regional power plan.

In 2019, the Northwest economy continued to grow at a faster rate than the national economy. Population grew by 200,000 to over 14.7 million, and the regional share of national population and income continued to grow. Employment levels increased by about 150,000 for a total of over seven million. Regional unemployment rates continued to decline to historical low levels.

For utilities, the overall picture shows that the 20-year trend of flat load growth continues. The region is producing more goods and services with less electricity as per capita demand for electricity decreases.

In 2019, warming temperatures in winter reduced sales; overall sales increased by 200 average megawatts. Heating and cooling represent about 30 percent of the region’s total load. In 2019, winter heating requirements decreased by 2 percent and summer cooling requirements increased by 26 percent.

The other standout takeaway is the growth of on site solar generation, also known as behind-the-meter solar since it’s on the user’s side of the meter. It continued to grow at a robust average annual rate of 34 percent, a rate maintained since 2014.

Other key takeaways include:

  • Regional economy continues to improve
  • Regional electricity and natural gas rates continue to be below the national rates
  • Utility revenues increased by about $300 million dollars
  • Winter and summer temperatures continue to drive average and peak loads
  • Regional time-of-use rates are offered by very few utilities

Follow the development of the Council’s 2021 regional power plan, expected to be released in the summer.