US industrial electricity demand tumbled 6% in March, compared to the year earlier period, reflecting a continuing contraction in the manufacturing sector, but residential sales jumped 11%.

The Energy Information Administration reported total power sales in March rose 3% to 268 billion kw-hr, from the same period in 2000. Residential sales totaled 94 billion kw-hr. Commercial sales rose 6% to 84 billion kw-hr. Industrial sales were 82 billion kw-hr, down from 88 billion kw-hr in March 2000.

For the first quarter of 2001, industrial sales were down 4.4%, compared to the first quarter of 2000. Residential sales, meanwhile, rose 10.6% and commercial sales were up 5.7% in the first quarter, compared to the year earlier period. Total sales were 268 billion kw-hr in the first quarter, a 3% increase over the first quarter of 2000.

Retail rates rose an average 9.7% in the first quarter of 2001, compared to the same period a year ago, driven by a 20% increase in industrial rates and a 10% increase in commercial rates. Industrial users paid on average 5�/kw-hr for electricity in the first quarter of 2001, while commercial users paid on average 7.6�/kw-hr. Residential rates climbed 2.4% to an average 8�/kw-hr in the same period, according to the EIA.

Receipts of gas totaled 114 bcf in February 2001, the most recent period for which information is available, down from 151 bcf reported in February 2000. As with coal and petroleum, the sale and reclassification of electric plants as nonutility is having a large effect on gas receipt data available from the New England, mid-Atlantic, and Pacific contiguous census divisions, the agency reported. Once the sale has taken place, fuel use and other data is no longer reported to EIA.

The average cost of gas delivered to electric utilities in February 2001 was $6.95/MMbtu, compared to $2.90/MMbtu reported in February 2000.

Receipts of petroleum totaled 10 million bbl, up nearly 6 million bbl from the level reported in February 2000. While the sale and reclassification of plants has reduced fuel oil receipts over the past year, EIA attributed the increase in petroleum receipts, in part, to utilities switching from natural gas to a less expensive fuel oil as a replacement fuel.

Also, the increase in consumption of fuel oil during December 2000 and January 2001 required some rebuilding of stocks during February. The average delivered cost of fuel oil was $4.56/MMbtu up from $4.20/MMbtu reported in February 2000.

Receipts of coal at electric utilities totaled 57 million short tons, down 10 million short tons from the level reported in February 2000. The decrease from the prior year level is due to the sale and reclassification of utility plants as nonutility plants.

Plants recently reclassified as nonutility and no longer required to report fuel receipts to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission include those operated by Atlantic City Electric Co., Atlantic City, NJ; Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., Baltimore, Md.; Cajun Electric Power Cooperative, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co., Poughkeepsie, NY; Duquesne Light Co., Pittsburgh, Penn.; PECO Energy, Philadelphia, Penn; Pennsylvania Power & Light Co., Potomac Edison Co., Potomac Electric Power Co., Washington, DC, and Public Service Electric & Gas Co. of New Jersey.