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Air quality is up, electricity usage is down. The environmental impact of COVID-19.

Posted at 6:18 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 18:19:57-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — There are many noticeable bi-products of people staying home because of COVID-19, whether it's empty roads or shuttered storefronts. There are, however, effects that we can't see.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, electricity usage in New York is down 6% to 9% this March compared to years past. The peak electricity time is also later in the day.

This is because so many people are working from home.

"Buildings in our country use half of the energy that we use, and three quarters of the electricity that we use," said Martha Bohm an Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo.

Bohm said that means less emissions from the power plants that make our energy, but experts say the broader impact on air quality is less cars on the road.

In certain places where you have significant pollution, like along freeways or the peace bridge, when you don’t have truck traffic or other things idling at the border it certainly will improve the local air quality in those locations," said Nick Rajkovich, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University at Buffalo.

The improved air quality could have direct health benefits.

"When the sky's clear, when the air is easier to breath, easier on the lungs of those vulnerable populations, it's likely that we'll see a slight downturn in the number of air quality related health events," Bohm said.

The impact won't likely be permanent. Both Bohm and Rejkovich predict enerby consumption will return to where it was once things re-open, whenever that may be.