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Global electricity demand declined in 2009 for the first time since the end of World War II according to OECD estimates. Electricity demand experienced a constant climb over the second half of the 20th century through the oil crises of the 1970s, the Black Monday crash of 1987, and on through the dot-com bubble bursting at the turn of the millennium as development countered all downward forces. The credit crunch of 2008 though, has resulted in a drop of as much as 1.6% based on OECD figures derived from the IMF’s latest GDP growth forecast for 2009.

The drop-off in demand accelerated in the first quarter of 2009, with electricity consumption falling by 4.7% compared to the first quarter of 2008. OECD electricity demand fell by an estimated 2.7% in the second quarter. Demand also weakened in non-OECD regions. In China, for example, demand fell by a staggering 7.1% in the fourth quarter of 2008, by 4% in the fi st quarter of 2009 and by an estimated 0.6% in the second quarter.

Electricity growth is expected to fall most dramatically in Russia due to slumping gas and oil earnings, followed by a decrease in usage across the OECD. This drop in demand is reducing the need for new capacity and driving down power-sector investment. In turn, needs are being fulfilled by lower capital options, which usually favor older technologies, such as natural gas and coal, instead of newer, costlier investment in greener energy from nuclear and renewable sources.

World Energy Outlook 2009, available at www.oecd.org/bookshop, ISBN 978-92-64-06130-9

©OECD Observer No 276-277 December 2009-January 2010