Did you know?

Electricity was first sold in the United States in 1879 by the California Electric Light Company in San Francisco, which produced and sold only enough electricity to power 21 electric lights (Brush arc light lamps).

U.S. electricity consumption totaled nearly 3,862 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2014

Electricity is an essential part of modern life, and it is important to the U.S. economy. People use electricity for lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, and for operating appliances, computers, electronics, machinery, and public transportation systems. U.S. electricity use in 2014 was more than 13 times greater than electricity use in 1950.

Share of total U.S. electricity use by major consuming sectors in 2014:

  • Residential—36%
  • Commercial—35%
  • Industrial—28% (includes direct use of electricity)
  • Transportation—0.2% (mostly by public transit systems)

Direct use is the electricity generated mainly by industrial and manufacturing facilities that is used by those facilities. Some direct use of electricity occurs in other sectors, but it is a relatively small share of total electricity consumption.

Most electricity in U.S. homes is used for air conditioning, heating, and lighting

The largest single use of electricity in the U.S. residential sector on an annual basis is for air conditioning (cooling), followed by space heating, lighting, water heating, refrigeration, and televisions and related electronic equipment. About 40% of annual electricity use is by clothes washers and dryers, computers and related equipment, dishwashers, and small appliances and electrical equipment.

Lighting is the single largest annual use of electricity in the U.S. commercial sector

Lighting is the largest use of electricity in the U.S. commercial sector, which includes retail, office, education, institutional, public, and government buildings, and outdoor and public street lighting. The other major commercial uses of electricity are for ventilation, cooling, refrigeration, powering computers and other office equipment, and space and water heating. There are many other uses of electricity in this sector that include powering medical, security, and fire suppression equipment; powering elevators and escalators; and running cooking and laundry equipment.

Machine drives are the largest use of electricity by U.S. manufacturers

About half of electricity used by U.S. manufacturers is used to drive machinery. Process and boiler heating is the next largest use of electricity at about 13%. Use of electricity for lighting is about 7%.

U.S. electricity use is projected to grow slowly

U.S. electricity consumption declined in only three years between 1950 and 2007. However, it declined in five of the years between 2008 and 2014, with the largest drop (about 4%) occurring in 2009. One contributing factor to the drop in electricity consumption was the economic downturn that took place in late 2007 through 2009. The economic downturn led to a large drop in electricity sales to the industrial sector. Other factors, such as efficiency improvements associated with new appliance standards in the buildings sectors and overall improvements in the efficiency of technologies powered by electricity, have slowed electricity demand growth and may contribute to slower future growth. In the Annual Energy Outlook 2015, Reference case, total U.S. electricity use grows by an average of less than 1% per year from 2014 to 2040.

World electricity use may grow fastest in non-OECD countries

The member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) consumed 51% of the world's total electricity supply in 2010, but their share is projected to decline. In the International Energy Outlook 2013, non-OECD nations account for 64% of world electricity use in 2040.