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Xie Group Tracks Short-Run Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. Electricity Sector

Published: May 27, 2020
Coronavirus Disease-Electricity Market Data Aggregation (COVID-EMDA),

Dr. Le Xie, a Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M Energy Institute’s Assistant Director of Energy Digitization, along with his research group and collaborators at Tsinghua University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has developed a first-of-its-kind cross-domain open-access data hub, integrating data from across all existing U.S. wholesale electricity markets with COVID-19 case, weather, cellular location, and satellite imaging data.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has rapidly spread around the globe in 2020, with the U.S. becoming the epicenter of COVID-19 cases since late March. As the U.S. begins to gradually resume economic activity, it is imperative for policymakers and power system operators to take a scientific approach to understanding and predicting the impact on the electricity sector.

Xie and his colleagues leverage cross-domain insights from public health and mobility data, uncovering a significant reduction in electricity consumption that is strongly correlated with the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, degree of social distancing, and level of commercial activity.

According to the paper, “An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases indirectly impacts electricity consumption as it results in isolation policies, which in turn lead to an increase in social distancing (size of the stay-at-home population), as well as shut down of businesses (commercial loads)…This research departs from conventional power system analysis by introducing new domains of data that would have a significant impact on the behavior of the electricity sector in the future.”

Data collected by Xie and the research team suggest that the U.S. electricity sector, and particularly the Northeastern region, is undergoing highly volatile changes. The change in the overall electricity consumption is also highly correlated with cross-domain factors such as the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases, the degree of social distancing, and the level of commercial activity observed in each region, suggesting that the traditional landscape of forecasting, reliability, and risk assessment in the electricity sector will now need to be augmented with such cross-domain analyses in the near future. Going beyond the initial analysis, the group has introduced a timely open-access easy-to-use data-hub, the Coronavirus Disease-Electricity Market Data Aggregation (COVID-EMDA), that aggregates multiple data sources for tracking and analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. electricity sector. The hub will allow researchers to conduct cross-domain analysis on the electricity sector during and after this global pandemic.

Read more about “How the Pandemic Impacts U.S. Electricity Usage” in an IEEE Spectrum article: