2020 health crisis: Sharp decrease in demand

The health crisis caused by Covid-19, which began to spread across the world early in the year, had a significant and immediate impact on electricity consumption in France as soon as confinement measures were imposed.

Consumption began to plummet within the first days of the lockdown ordered mid-March. This steep drop was directly attributable to a variety of companies and industries shutting down, and to the complete closure of most retail businesses.

At the height of the crisis (second and third weeks of the lockdown), the impact of confinement measures on electricity consumption in some cases exceeded 15 %, all other things being equal (i.e. based on equivalent weather conditions). The impact lessened over the following weeks as business activity resumed partially, notably in the industrial sector. By the end of April, the estimated impact on French power consumption had fallen to about 10 %.

Starting in June and during the summer months, consumption rebounded to a level that was closer to normal. This recovery was the result first of reopening, which allowed businesses to partially resume their activities; and then to the summer holiday period, during which business activity is traditionally lower. Toward mid-October, power consumption was 2 to 3 % below normal. This was the case in the industrial and tertiary sectors, where demand is directly dependent on economic activity.

In late October and early November, stronger health measures (curfews in large cities, a second, less restrictive lockdown) caused consumption to decline again, but not by nearly as much as in the spring. An additional decrease of about 1 point was seen during the first week of the second lockdown, driving consumption down to about 3-4% below normal. Consumption rose slightly after the end of the second lockdown, and ended the year at around 2-3 % below average.

Between March and December, comparative consumption relative to the average for the 2014-2019 period was -4.7 %.

*adjusted consumption, business days only

1st confinement: from Tuesday, 17 March to Monday, 11 May 2020
2nd confinement: from Wednesday, 30 October to Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Closer look

Better understanding

Gross consumption

Gross consumption ended 2020 at 449 TWh, down 5.1 % from a year earlier. This decline was attributable to the health crisis and to generally milder weather.

Closer look

Better understanding

Closer look

Better understanding

Why are adjustments made to gross consumption ?

To better identify structural trends

When it is very cold outside, electricity is used for heating. When the weather is very hot, people use power for cooling. To better analyse structural trends from one year to the next, power consumption data is adjusted to strip out “weather effects”. Once this is done, electricity demand corresponds to what would have been consumed if temperatures had been the same as reference temperatures.

Adjustments can be made for other factors as well. For instance, February has an extra day in leap years. To strip out this calendar effect, consumption is adjusted in such a way as to count only 365 days.



Adjusted consumption

Adjusted for weather and calendar effects, consumption ended the year at 460 TWh, which was 3.5% lower than in 2019.

This temporary decline, attributable to the health crisis, marked a break with the trend of the past ten years.

Indeed, power demand in France entered a period of relative stability in 2010. The trend reflects a gradual slowing of demand growth observed over several decades: growth rates declined steadily and approached zero in 2010.

This structural slowing of electricity demand growth in France, also observed in most European countries, is chiefly attributable to:

  • more widespread and stronger energy efficiency measures in buildings and for appliance efficiency, allowing the same needs to be met with less electricity;
  • a long-term slowing of economic and demographic growth over several decades;
  • a structural change in economic activity with a shift toward the service industry, knowing that services consume four to five times less electricity than the industrial sector for the same level of production.

A long period of stable consumption was thus interrupted in 2020.

Closer look

Better understanding

Temperature trends relative to reference temperatures

The year 2020 was the warmest in France’s history (+0.97°C relative to the average reference temperature).
An analysis of daily data (source: Météo France) nevertheless reveals some contrasting trends:

  • The weather was very mild in the early months of the year. Between January and May, average temperatures were 2 to 3°C above normal most of the time. In terms of average temperatures since 1900, February ended up being the second warmest month on record, April the third warmest and May the firth warmest
  • June 2020 saw many cool days and unstable weather with remarkable rainstorm activity on the 11th and 12th, followed by extreme heat from the 23rd to the 26th;
  • July was exceptionally dry and a first heatwave occurred late in the month, followed by a second one from 6 to 13 August. August was the third warmest month of August on record since 1900;
  • September saw extreme weather events: an exceptional late heat spell from the 13th to 17th, followed by a major rainfall event in the south of France that caused devastating flooding between the 18th and 20th, and then remarkably low temperatures on the 27th with early snowfall in the mountains;
  • In October, two storms swept thorough France: “Alex” hit the Alpes-Maritimes on the 2nd, and “Barbara” the Southwest and Centre-East on the 20th and 21st;
  • November saw the second lowest rainfall on record in the 1952-2020 period. A high-pressure system over France kept the country bathed in sunlight (more than 20% above average) and temperatures were warmer than normal (2 to 4°C) in most regions;
  • By contrast, December was very wet and fairly stormy. One disruption followed another, bringing rain and snow. The “Bella” storm swept through the northwest on the 27th, but temperatures were very mild between the 11th and the 24th.

Consumption analyses are adjusted to reflect these effects in order to better identify underlying trends.


Closer look

éCO2mix: Everything you want to know about electricity in France and your region or city

éCO2mix is an educational tool designed to promote transparency.
Whether you are an ordinary citizen trying to better understand electricity to become a more responsible consumer, a knowledgeable amateur or an energy professional, you can use éCO2mix in a fun or expert manner to monitor power system data at the national, regional or city level. It can also be used to understand your power consumption and get advice on how to reduce it and take simple actions to prevent or reduce the risk of a system imbalance if a power warning is issued.


Better understanding