Get Ready for Another Energy Price Spike: High Electric Bills
Rates have jumped because of a surge in natural gas prices and could keep rising rapidly for years as utilities invest in electric grids.
Already frustrated and angry about high gasoline prices, many Americans are being hit by rapidly rising electricity bills, compounding inflation’s financial toll on people and businesses.
The national average residential electricity rate was up 8 percent in January from a year earlier, the biggest annual increase in more than a decade. The latest figures, from February, show an almost 4 percent annual rise, reaching the highest level for that month and approaching summer rates, which are generally the most expensive.
In Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and New York, rates are up about 15 percent, according to the Energy Department’s latest figures. Combined with a seasonal increase in the use of electricity as people turn on air-conditioners, the higher rates will leave many people paying a lot more for power this summer than they did last year.
The immediate reason for the jump in electric rates is that the war in Ukraine has driven up the already high cost of natural gas, which is burned to produce about 40 percent of America’s electricity. And supply chain chaos has made routine grid maintenance and upgrades more expensive.
What is particularly worrisome, energy experts said, is that these short-term disruptions could be just the start. They fear that electricity rates will rise at a rapid clip for years because utilities and regulators are realizing they need to harden electric grids against natural disasters linked to climate change like the winter storm that left Texas without power for days last year. Power companies are also spending more on new transmission lines, batteries, wind turbines, solar farms and other gear to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.