Energy Efficiency's Biggest Payoff
Originally published by: Eco Building Pulse — December 5, 2013
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Hawaii has a lot going for it: The jaw-dropping sunsets and stunning vistas, the multitude of beaches and warm temperatures year round, the relaxed island vibe. One thing it doesn't have: low electricity bills. It seems residents of the Aloha state shell out the most money on a monthly basis for their residential electricity bill, paying an average of $203.15 per month in 2012. In contrast, New Mexico residents pay the lowest monthly rates with an average bill of $74.62.
And when it comes to commercial electricity bills, the District of Columbia may get sticker shock: Average monthly electricity bills there for commercial structures is a whopping $3,288.38. It's a huge number, considering that covers only 26,548 customers. As a comparison, look at Idaho, which has 102,319 customers and a monthly commercial electricity bill of just $334.19. In DC's defense, it's average price per kilowatt hour is nearly double that of the Gem state: 12.02 cents versus 6.86 cents.
It seems there are a lot of states that could benefit from energy efficiency measures. The NAHB's Eye on Housing blog gave us the tip off on the data, which compiles information from 2012, ranks all 50 states, and was recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). On the mainland, wallets in the South Atlantic states (DC, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) feel the pinch the most each month when it comes to residences, with an average electric bill of $122.71 per month, and Pacific states rank the lowest. On the commercial side, the Pacific states of Alaska and Hawaii foot the largest average monthly bills, coming in at $1,192.77, while the East South Central states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee come out on top with the lowest average commercial bill of $501.67 a month.
State rankings, however, don't necessarily correspond directly with consumption levels. Hawaii gets dinged the most because of its average electricity retail price, which at 37.34 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for residences and 34.88 cents per kWh for commercial use, is the highest in the country. Meanwhile, in 2012 Louisiana consumed the highest average amount of electricity at 1,254 kWh, but benefited from the lowest average retail price for residential use, 8.37 cents per kWh. (On the commercial side, Oklahoma had the lowest commercial rate, with an average of 7.32 cents per kWh.) At the other end of the spectrum in terms of residential use is Maine, which consumed an average of 531 kilowatt hours a month, the lowest in the country. However, Northeast states may have an advantage in this specific survey: As relayed by NAHB, the majority of homes in the Northeast use heating oil instead of electricity for space heating. (Looking beyond fuel sources, Massachusetts was recently named the most energy-efficient state in the country for the third-year running.)
Where does your state stand in terms of monthly residential and commercial electricity? Click here for NAHB's color-coded map for residential bills (check out the map below for a breakdown of the top five regions for residential electric consumption), and click here for the full breakdown of EIA data by sector in terms of kilowatt hours used, average bills, and more. Then click here to read a recent essay by Dennis Creech, CEO of Southface in Atlanta and co-chair of our Vision 2020 Energy Efficiency + Building Science section this year, to learn about how we must improve energy efficiency across the board in the years ahead.