Americans are using more gadgets, televisions and air conditioners than ever before. But, oddly, their electricity use is barely growing, posing a daunting challenge for the nation's utilities.
The Energy Information Administration is projecting that electricity use in the U.S. will rise an average of just 0.6% a year for industrial users and 0.7% for households through 2040.
For decades, electricity use was viewed as a barometer of economic growth, but the link has become less clear cut in recent years, partly because of a big push to make major appliances and other products, such as compact fluorescent lightbulbs and high-efficiency motors, that use less electricity.
The slower pace of growth in electricity use may be helping the environment, since most of the nation's electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels. But it has power companies scrambling to trim spending or redirect capital investment, to improve their profits regardless of consumption patterns.