Since COVID-19 officially arrived in the US, average electrical usage increased 9.3% from April through August 2020 compared to 2019, a reflection of people using more electricity while they stayed home, combined with wildfires in the West and heat waves across the US.
Electricity bills jumped in 2020
Electricity demand rose by 22% from March 10 to April 10 as people stayed home. This was based on an analysis of anonymized energy data in more than 5,200 homes that have Sense home energy monitors.
From April to September 2020, home electricity use continued to be higher than 2019, as per the graph below:
Through spring and summer, US consumers paid an additional $1.21 billion on their monthly electricity bills in 2020 due to the combined impacts of the pandemic and climate change. The average additional cost is trending to $127 per household by year’s end.
But the costs varied across the country. Sense did an analysis of states with disparate circumstances and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and here’s a quick look at three states with some of the largest populations in the US: New York, California, and Florida.
New York had some of the highest increases in electricity usage through the spring and summer due to being hit by severe COVID-19 surges and shutdowns to slow the pandemic. New York residents that were monitored used 12.7% more electricity compared to 2019, which translated into $27 more per month, and cost an additional $190.8 million statewide each month. By the end of the year, New Yorkers are forecast to spend $243 extra on electricity in 2020, mostly related to COVID-19 impacts.
On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) issued a statewide stay-at-home order, due to COVID, one of the first states to mandate the policy. During a late-May heat wave, home electricity usage peaked at 21% higher than 2019. In August, wildfires tore across the state and air quality dramatically deteriorated, forcing residents indoors, and electricity usage spiked yet again, by 16%. Energy consumed during the end of the August heat wave was 31% higher than the highest week in 2019.
Over the course of spring and summer, California residents in the study paid $19.60 more per month on average. By the end of 2020, residents are forecast to spend $176 more on their utility bills compared to a year ago.
Florida has had looser COVID rules under Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL), apart from a 30-day stay-at-home order in April, which was widely criticized for being tardy. For example, the state recommends but does not require face masks. Home energy usage spiked by 18.6% in March when the East Coast experienced the first wave of the pandemic and people stayed at home voluntarily. By summer, the electricity usage was close to 2019 levels. Overall, Florida residents used only 3.9% more electricity in the spring and summer than they had in 2019 for an additional monthly cost of $8.40.
Improving electricity bills in 2021
As climate change will only continue to impact temperatures and the pandemic is far from over, US residents can take steps to reduce the cost of their electricity by taking such steps as opting for residential solar (see below), and monitoring and reducing their energy usage with devices such as smart thermostats and energy monitoring tools. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as turning off unnecessary lights and unused or idling appliances and adjusting the temperature of your home. For example, check out this article Electrek published in July about how air conditioning is hurting your wallet and the planet, and how to fix that.
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