A nationwide comparison of electricity performance by an Illinois consumer advocacy group found that consumers in states that rely heavily on fuel oil and natural gas, such as the Northeast and South, tend to pay more than those that do. more volumes of carbon-free generation. among other finds.
The Illinois-based Citizens Utility Board report ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the reliability, affordability, and environmental responsibility of utilities using publicly available 2020 data provided by the US Energy Information Administration, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Census Bureau.
In terms of overall performance in these categories, the top ten, starting with the highest rankings, are Washington, Nevada, DC, South Dakota, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, Minnesota, Oregon, and Nebraska. The top ten, starting with the lowest ratings, included West Virginia, Alaska, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and Connecticut.
For the second year in a row, the group is compiling a report that began as a way to measure Illinois against other states and has evolved into a blueprint that it hopes will be useful to utility regulators, electricity rate payers and public policy makers across the country. said David Kolata, chief executive of the board.
“What we have tried to do here is to give as complete a picture as possible,” he said. “We see this as the beginning of a conversation, not the end of it. We think this is a convenient and affordable way to get this data. … We hope that each state will improve its performance in these categories.”
Given the wide variation in regulatory regimes across states, the difference in rates between consumer classes, and how their bills stack up, it can be difficult to compare electricity prices across states. In addition, climate differences, as well as differences in heating and cooling, can make it difficult to compare bills between apples. For example, electricity consumers in the south tend to rely on electricity for heating in the winter and experience hotter summers, when more air conditioners are needed, than in the north, where gas is more commonly used for home heating.
“While households in warmer climates may use more electricity annually to run air conditioners than households in colder climates, those same households will not spend as much on natural gas, propane, or other heating fuels in the winter,” it says. in the report. . Other states, such as Alaska and Hawaii, are expensive due to their geographic isolation from the larger US power grid.
The top ten in terms of overall affordability—measured by average household energy expenditures, total household electricity expenditures as a percentage of income, cost of electricity per kilowatt hour, total electricity costs, and energy savings costs—were Utah, Washington, Idaho, the District of Columbia, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska and Illinois. The top ten worst states were Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Alaska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
Nevada was ranked 14th in overall affordability.
Although the study used data from 2020, problems with gas availability in gas-dependent states are likely to get worse, Kolata said, given the huge gas price hike partly caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In November, the National Association of Energy Relief Directors said more than 20 million American families (about 1 in 6) owed utility bills and owed more than $16 billion in total as of August, up from 8.1 billion dollars at the end of 2019. the problem is expected to worsen as natural gas prices hit a 16-year high. Natural gas-fired power plants provide about 38% of US electricity generation.
“There is every reason to believe that in those states that depend on natural gas and fossil fuels, the availability situation will become even worse in the future,” Kolata said. He noted that the study found that states with a significant amount of “sustainable” carbon-free generation, such as Washington’s and Oregon’s huge hydropower resources, and Illinois, which has more nuclear reactors than any other state, generally do well with affordability measures. .
While outages caused by power outages, such as the case of Winter Storm Elliott, get a lot of headlines, only about 1% of outage minutes in the country are caused by generation or transmission problems. Much more common, the report says, are delivery system failures such as hurricanes, power line outages, equipment failures and other problems.
Using three reliability indices created by the electric power industry, the report ranked states based on how well utilities performed during “major events” such as ice storms, hurricanes and wildfires, as well as under normal conditions.
The top ten in terms of reliability were Arizona, Nevada, DC, South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Maryland, Kansas, Minnesota and Florida. The top ten included Louisiana, West Virginia, Maine, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Alaska, Michigan and Tennessee.
In 2020, hurricane-prone Louisiana had the longest average duration of power outages due to major events at 3,624 minutes per customer, while Arizona, the top state, averaged just 72 minutes. In the US, 2020 set a record for the most named storms (11) making landfall, according to the Weather Channel. Louisiana was hit by three hurricanes that year.
Without major events, Nevada was the top state (second only to D.C.) with an average outage duration of 55 minutes per customer. Worst of all was West Virginia at 468 minutes.
The report also ranks states by their electricity sources and emissions data, giving consumers, policy makers and others “a bird’s eye view of each state’s renewable, clean energy and fossil fuel mix”, as well as data on how actively utilities implement energy efficiency. programs.
The overall environmental rating includes a combination of carbon and other emissions, electricity generation from renewable sources (including biomass), clean energy (defined as all renewables, plus nuclear and excluding biomass), and savings from residential energy efficiency programs in percent of residential electricity sales. Nevada ranked 20th.
The top ten included Washington, South Dakota, Oregon, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, California, Idaho, Maine and Oklahoma. The top ten included West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Missouri, Mississippi, Wyoming, Utah and Alaska. There were interesting contradictions.
For example, Texas leads in both clean electricity generation and CO2 emissions.
“Texas is big everywhere,” Kolata said, adding that he hopes the report will be a tool for policy makers, utility regulators, customers and others to start looking at performance differences across states.
“You can’t improve what you can’t measure.”