The push to a green energy society has many benefits. Among them are the severing of dependency on foreign oil, combatting global warming, and a generally cleaner planet.
One benefit—cost—gets less attention, but it is of more tangible and direct consequence to consumers. After all, it stands to reason that, if consumers become more reliant on power generated by plentiful and naturally reoccurring sources, such as wind and solar, their costs to purchase power will go down.
New research from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) seems to suggest that such a trend is underway. In April, the EIA announced that home energy costs have reached a 10-year low.
According to the EIA, the average consumer spent $1,945 on home energy bills last year. Collectively, home energy expenditures by U.S. households fell $12 billion from the year before.
Taking the analysis one step further, the EIA combined its data on energy consumption and costs with household income data derived from the U.S. Census Bureau. That process revealed how much consumers spend on home energy bills as a percentage of their household income. According to the EIA, consumers spent about 2.7 percent of their household income on home energy bills in 2012. That is the lowest percentage since 2002, when the figure stood at about 2.5 percent.
There are a number of factors contributing to this decline, not all of which necessarily point to an increase in the use of renewable fuels or greater energy efficiency. For example, prices for residential natural gas decreased 3 percent last year from the year before. Last year also saw warmer weather. These factors combined to help lower consumers’ energy consumption and their costs.
The EIA’s figures for total home energy consumption include heating, cooling, appliances, electronics and lighting. Fuel sources include electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, propane, kerosene, wood and coal. It does not include transportation fuel.