How Much Have Electric Rates Increased?
Are Electricity Prices Increasing?
One topic that arises over and over is this: Electricity is so cheap in Oregon and Washington, that free solar electricity is just not that important.
So I looked into it. Our rates here in the Northwest so stable and cheap that we can expect cheap power to last forever? Not a chance.
A common myth is that solar energy is too expensive and is useless if my electricity is cheap (Read: 5 Solar Energy Myths You Always Believed True)
If you are lucky enough to live in parts of the country that enjoy low utility rates, you may have a sense of false confidence when it comes to your future power bills. The reality is that even in states like Oregon and Washington where rates are historically low, electricity costs are on the rise.
Rise Of Energy Costs In Oregon And Washington
Free electricity is nice, but the reality is that power rates are on the rise. Using public data from the US Energy Information Administration and Choose Energy we can compare average electrical rates in Oregon and Washington from 2014 to rates in 2003 and found electrical rates have increased by:
Oregon increased by 43.5% on average.
Washington state increased b 38.5% on average.
How Do We Know This Is True?
We compared the average electrical rates in Washington and Oregon in both 2014 and 2003 using data that is publicly available online.
In January 2003,:
7.08 cents/kWh was the average retail price of electricity in OR, and
6.37 cents/kWh was the average retail price of electricity in WA.
You can see this data for yourself in Table 5.6.A
In June 2014:
10.16 cents/kWh was the average retail price of electricity in OR, and
8.82 cents/kWh was the average retail price of electricity in WA.
By the Numbers
The difference in average price was 3.08 cents/kWh.
3.08 / 7.08 = 0.4350, or about 43.5%
CHECK: 7.08 cents/kWh in 2003 x1.435 = the new rate in 2014 of 10.16 cents/kWh (these numbers have been rounded, of course)
The difference in average price was 2.45 cents/kWh
2.45 / 6.37 = 0.3846, or about 38.5%
Math: 6.37 cents/kWh in 2003 x1.3846 = the new 2014 rate of 8.82 cents/kWh (again, numbers are rounded)
So, even in areas that enjoy cheaper power today, when calculating the benefit of going solar it is important to look at rate escalation.
This is because solar is a long-term investment. Higher electrical rates in the future have a big impact on how much benefit you will actually receive from your installation.