As if we didn’t already have problems because of this pandemic, new data shows one-third of Americans are going to see a 10-15% increase in their utility bills this summer.
An energy and analytical company predicts higher home energy bills this summer as a result of Covid-19. Depending on where you live, Arcadia estimates that American households will be spending between $2 and $37 more on their monthly utility bills this summer.
The higher amounts are generally associated with places having higher population densities, although the West Coast shouldn’t get hit as hard.
Arcadia tracks energy use with measurement and verification methodologies to see the impact of outside effects on residential energy. Usually these effects are energy efficiency programs, renewable-only programs, demand response applications, etc., used to inform future decision-making like those associated with climate change and renewable energy use.
But in this case, it can also look at impacts on energy use caused by Covid-19.
The world has entered a global economic recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every recession lowers energy use, and this one may be a whopper. What is different with this recession is the extreme sheltering in place for long periods – watching videos, streaming shows, doing online schooling and conferencing – these mean more residential energy use.
We still cannot predict how long stay-at-home orders will last, if we’ll have a second wave, or how completely our new normal will change our daily lives, but some effects are obvious, like Covid-19-induced unemployment directly correlates with higher household utility bills.
Arcadia used CalTRACK at the personal billing-statement level, a method currently in use in California and Oregon, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Twelve months of historical energy bill data from approximately 10,000 households across thirteen of the largest metropolitan areas in America, were compared with usage rates and energy bill totals before and after nationwide lockdowns began, factoring in average yearly weather fluctuations by city.
With a sample size of roughly 900 households per city, Arcadia measured the increase in residential energy use from March and April to estimate the bump from stay-at-home orders. Using the same percentage of increase due to sheltering in place, multiplied by the average summer bill, multiplied by the number of households in each metro area, they calculated the total estimated summer month charges.
The results showed a significant increase in energy consumption at home is expected this summer, resulting in higher costs for already financially strained Americans. Predictions include:
– The top thirteen metropolitan areas in the US will see bill increases from energy use ranging from $2 to $37 per month.
– The majority of cities slated to see major utility bill increases are located on the East Coast including Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC.
– While households in each of these cities are likely to see spikes between $20 and $40 per month, West Coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Riverside, and Seattle will likely only see bill increases between $2 and $20.
– Population dense cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston may see some of the highest at-home energy bill increases in the nation, with conservative estimates of $37, $34, $27, and $23 in energy bill spikes, respectively.
Companies are shifting more and more to working from home so this increased energy consumption from home may not shift any time soon. Companies will probably start subsidizing home utility bills as a new employee benefit while looking at new ways to offset carbon emissions from home energy use.
Increasing energy bills are coming at a time when many households are already under economic strain. Unemployment in Philadelphia was 5.1% in March, up 1.2% from the same month in 2019 while it’s average utility bills will rise $37. Utility bills in Los Angeles will see a $17-per-household increase after seeing its unemployment rate increase to 5.7% in March, up 1.6% from 2019.
As if the health risks and financial strain weren’t enough in these cities, about 10% of people in these areas are uninsured, with minorities facing the highest risk. An estimated 59% of Philadelphia’s Covid-19 patients are non-white, as are large portions of the city’s essential workforce. A quarter of these workers make less than $30,000 annually, while two-thirds make less than $60,000 per year.
For those in need of help, many utility companies are offering forgiveness to customers who can’t pay their bills on time. And improving your energy efficiency at home is a good thing, regardless of your views on climate change.
Arcadia has some tips on how to work from home without raising your electric bill and ten ways to save energy at home.