Record utility costs may drive us to energy efficiecy

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ December 23, 2011

A new study shows that the price of electricity provided to American homeowners has skyrocketed over the last five years. Energy price research conducted by the USA TODAY shows that we've endured the longest consistent stretch of utility bill increases since the 1970s. Today's average bills represent a $300 annual increase in electric bills over what we paid in 2006.

Costs are powered by an increase in average household use of electricity coupled with rising charges levied by utility companies. Bureau of Economic Analysis data crunched by USA TODAY show that, after taxes, Americans put $1.50 of every $100 in income to pay for electricity. This year, some mainland Americans paid as much as 16 cents per residential kilowatt hour-a new record.

Paying the price

Electric companies blame increases on the need to replace aging power plants. Many retired facilities will be in the East and Mid-Atlantic regions of the country, ironically where the prices are already among the highest in the nation. ConEd-the company with the country's highest utility bills--told the USA TODAY that high taxes and pollution controls impact the cost to the consumer for electric energy.

The study found the highest (cents-per-kilowatt-hour) prices in Hawaii ($.28.1), Connecticut ($.19.25), New York ($.18.74), New Jersey ($.16.57), Alaska ($.16.26), New Hampshire ($.16.21), Rhode Island ($.15.92), Pennsylvania ($.12.70), Wisconsin ($.12.65), and Virginia ($.10.45).

States where residents pay the least include Idaho ($.7.79), Washington ($.8.04), North Dakota ($.8.13), Utah ($.8.71), Arkansas ($.8.86), and Nebraska ($.8.94). The Pacific Northwest, which still gets much of its electric power from hydropower dams, typically offers the lower end of the rate scale to consumers.

Ease the pain of increased electric bills: go green

Low-income families are hardest hit by the increase in electric power costs, the report said. People in dire financial need often begin creating their living budget based on having a roof overhead, and warm rooms inside. Increased energy costs mean some may have to compromise on basic necessities.

Those who earn enough to afford green energy upgrades may do well to complete them now ahead of further increases. New doors, windows and appliances built for energy efficiency can at least help you keep pace with energy bills. If your home needs greater protection from the elements, you might want to surf for ENERGY STAR window glass prices and the current window installation cost.

Fear won't keep you warm. You can do your part to curb the effect of runaway energy costs on your pocketbook - if you can afford the upgrades.

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