If you are the average American, chances are your power bill will be lower this summer than last summer. It’s not because of falling energy prices or eco-friendly practices, but because this year is expected to be cooler than 2012, which was much warmer than normal.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the average summer bill will drop by 2.5 percent. There is a projected 4.6 percent decline in electricity sales for each home, but that is offset by an average 2.2 percent rise in retail prices. You're out of luck if you're in the Mountain West region or the Southwest, where prices are slated to go up slightly. Of course, the outlook is essentially mostly educated guesswork.
“In recent years, U.S. retail sales of electricity during the summer months have become more sensitive to changes in temperature, primarily because of the increasing prevalence of air conditioning in U.S. homes,” the EIA states in the Short-Term Energy Outlook Supplement.
The rate of air-conditioning use has climbed steadily in the past twenty years. Air conditioning accounts for the bulk of summer electricity use, but the piles of electronics most of us hoard isn’t helping either.
But that trend has been slowed slightly in recent years, according to EIA, and not because of a slew of mild summers. The agency suggests that improved energy efficiency coupled with the recession could be responsible.
The recession might not last forever, but the gains for efficiency can. Even though new homes are more likely to have central AC, they’re also more likely to have better insulation and more efficient HVAC systems.
Utilities are also offering a bevy of new programs to residents that leverage two-way wireless thermostats to cut energy use on the hottest of days. Even without the utility, people are buying nifty new thermostats in droves, and are even comparing features with family and friends while on vacation.
Increasingly, state legislatures are calling for programs to help manage summer electricity use, and not just for large businesses. Technology that learns our living patterns and characteristics of our homes could allow us to enjoy the AC but use it more wisely. Best of all, many of these technologies don’t actually involve the user doing much at all.
Although the graph has been on an upward trend for decades, there is a real possibility it could flatten out in decades to come, even as the summer weather gets wackier -- and warmer.