4661.0 - Using electricity data to understand COVID-19 impacts , 2020  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/10/2020  First Issue
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Pilot Research Study

We acquired a sample of smart meter electricity data for inner city Melbourne from two electricity distributors. The data was acquired in May of this year and covers the periods January 1 to April 28, 2020, and January 1 to April 7, 2019. The data for the pilot study covers time periods that precede the Victorian COVID-19 stay-at-home orders introduced on July 8 2020, and covers Melbourne due to greater availability of smart meter data for this city.

The goals of the pilot study were to examine whether the data could be used to enhance or bolster ABS economic statistics, or to produce more timely indicators that would be of value in the context of disruptions due to COVID-19.

Preliminary Findings From Research Pilot

The electricity usage trends of households and businesses diverged from mid-March through April 2020. Total business electricity usage1 declined, whereas household usage slightly increased over this period. This is consistent with recent findings from ABS household and business COVID-19 impact surveys that a substantial number of businesses reduced activity, and that more people stayed home during the day.

While the data indicates that household share of electricity usage increased and business share decreased, some of this is attributable to more people working from home.

Graph: Household and electricity use trends were similar until mid-March 2020, when business use began a decline compared to household use.
Figure 1: Aggregate electricity use comparison, households vs businesses. The date Victoria entered a state of emergency, March 16, 2020, is indicated with a dashed line.

1The smart meter data includes electricity purchased from the grid, but not electricity self-generated and consumed by households and businesses. See section 'Interpreting Electricity Data'.