In 2020, COVID impacted everyone’s world. As two weeks to flatten the curve turned to months of adaptation, new policies, practices, and protections took hold, and the interconnected nature of human welfare and the economy became indisputable. Companies flooded the airwaves with philanthropic action and calls for unity and support during 'these unprecedented times.' And, more than ever before, our first responders became larger than life heroes, sacrificing to protect and care for us all.
Indeed, Americans felt the effects of the pandemic unequally across the country. For many, the home became — and will continue to be — the hub for education, entertainment, and business. For others, their work's critical nature meant continuing to serve in public, masked-up for protection. As providers of a vital resource — power — these shifts in consumption were underscored by electricity's relevance in modern life.
Spring 2020 and a new normal sets in
We began to see the shift in April 2020, as commercial activity moved to the residential space, with homes becoming synonymous with work and school. Traditionally, residential power use resembles a u-shaped curve with high demand in the morning as people begin their day, lower demand in the afternoon, and a swing back up in the evening hours as people return home from work. With more working from home, we saw most households get a later start to their day, with higher usage throughout the day, and energy use only lessening after people turned in for the night. Conversely, widespread stay-at-home orders yielded a sharp decline in commercial and industrial usage throughout the country.
Impacts on businesses were widespread, spurring an increase in unemployment and financial hardship. Many Americans found themselves furloughed or unemployed with the closure of many small businesses and the throttling of many industries, leading to concerns around paying for necessities such as rent or mortgages, food, and utility bills such as electricity. With all these pressing issues, it was our belief that customers should not have to worry about their electricity. We quickly offered financial relief to our customers, implementing disconnection moratoriums, relaxing minimum usage requirements, waiving late fees, and providing information and access to payment assistance. We also committed $2 million in charitable contributions to fund relief efforts in connection with COVID-19.
A slowing economy and reduced global travel also led to a record fall in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020. The Global Carbon Budget estimated a steep 7% drop-off in global emissions, attributable primarily to travel restrictions. At NRG, reduced demand for electricity drove the earlier-than-expected achievement of our 2025 goal to reduce emissions 50% from our current 2014 baseline. As the economy recovers, and COVID-19 impacts loosen, our emissions levels may change due to additional demand for electricity. However, we remain on track for meeting our 50% reduction target by 2025.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over, but as vaccinations roll out, hope illuminates our future. The path forward brings new opportunity, and this moment allows us to define what we want in our collective recovery. We can work to ensure CO2 reductions persist by choosing renewable options, encouraging wider adoption of energy efficiency and smart devices to improve demand-side power management, and accelerating the electrification of transportation. At NRG, we stand ready to help our residential, small business, commercial, and industrial customers chart their recovery, meeting their sustainability goals for today and tomorrow.