Electricity production is one of the basic industrial activities and its usage is one of the basic inputs into the state of the economy. Although a coincident indicator, it is a bit upstream of the four Conference Board's Index of Coincident Indicators, thus giving a bit more granularity to the picture.
From 24/7 Wall Street:
Just as with natural gas and crude oil, electricity use is off as the economy heads into its second year of recession. The lack of demand for electricity affects not only the bottom line for generators like Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), Dynegy Inc. (NYSE:DYN), and American Electric Power (NYSE:AEP).
The delivery system for electric power in the US is old and needs to be upgraded or replaced. Electricity suppliers had been planning on spending the capital to replace a lot of the aging infrastructure, such as transmission and distribution lines, as well as build new generation facilities to keep pace with expected demand. Suppliers were also looking at getting a start on using alternatives to burning coal and natural gas in an effort to address climate change issues.
Electricity generation and distribution were down about 3% in the third quarter compared with the 2007 third quarter. Natural gas distribution was down about 5%. Duke's sales in the Midwest were off by nearly 6%, and AEP sales were off more than 3%. Dynegy has had two unexplained shutdowns of two 512-MW combined cycle generators at its plant in Moss Landing, California. That's about 3% of Dynegy's total generating capacity....MORE