In order to understand the effects of COVID-19 on the US economy, we need measures of economic activity that can keep pace with the spread of the virus. This means measures that can be constructed not just for the nation as a whole, but for states and localities. It also means measures that can be constructed very quickly from available data sources; it takes months to finalize existing economic statistics. This award funds a project that seeks to meet this urgent need by using existing data streams that measure electricity consumption. The available data divide the US into 100 different geographic zones and are measured hourly. The PI will use statistical methods to determine how past economic crises have affected electricity consumption. The results will help them see when and how electricity generation is a useful economic indicator. If successful, the project will give policymakers and businesses better measures of how the economy is performing during fast-moving crises.
The team will develop a real-time index of economic activity using weather-adjusted electricity consumption. Data will come from publicly available sources, including the individual Independent System Operators (ISOs) that conduct wholesale electricity markets, the Energy Information Administration (EAI), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). The data will be merged for weather state from the National Weather Service's Automated Surface Observing Systems (ASOS) to control for the effect of heating and cooling needs on electricity demand.