By Carlos Anchondo

Remote work prompted by the coronavirus pandemic may not be as “green” as once believed, according to new research.

In a paper released earlier this month, Steve Cicala, an assistant professor of economics at Tufts University, found that while electricity consumption across the commercial and industrial sectors decreased in the second quarter of the year, residential usage went up as the COVID-19 pandemic increased the share of the U.S. labor force working at home. Overall, household electricity use in the United States rose 10% during the second quarter of the year, according to a data analysis of electric utilities nationwide.

“In the same way that dense cities are more energy efficient than suburbs, it requires more energy to heat and cool entire homes than the offices and schools in which people usually congregate during the day,” the paper said.

“As industrial and commercial activity recovers, working from home has the potential to increase emissions from the power sector on net,” it said.

And while remote work means fewer cars on the road, “working from home is not as green as one might think based on reduced commuting alone,” Cicala added.

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