Do you know how much you pay for electricity?

Experts

Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment
Senior Communications Associate, Energy Policy

By Jason Kuruvilla on Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Turns out, few people do. Unlike  the cost of a gallon of milk, or a gallon of gasoline, the vast majority of people know little about how much they pay for electricity per kilowatt hour (the standard unit of measure). Consumers Union’s recent survey of Virginia residents looked at their knowledge of electricity charges and support for energy policies in the state.

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It’s understandable – when you are focused on the challenges of daily life, knowing the details of your household electricity usage may not be a top priority.  But knowing how to be more energy efficient and what programs are available to help you do so can have a big impact on how much you pay in monthly utility charges.  And state policy can hinder or help your efforts to save.

In Virginia, the state’s largest utility provider, Dominion Power, is in the middle of developing a long-term plan to meet the state’s electricity needs. Unfortunately, many of their solutions focus on expensive options like building new power plants instead of looking at lower cost options like energy efficiency or investing in affordable renewable energy options like wind and solar power.

As this debate continues among utility providers, ratepayers and state regulators, Consumers Union decided to take a look at what Virginia residents know about their electricity usage and support for and awareness of ways to lower their electricity bill.

We found that nearly 6 in 10 Virginia ratepayers worry about being able to pay their electric bill and 90% try to lower their bills by conserving electricity.

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In terms of what residents believe can help lower their electric bills include: adding solar power to their roofs was the top choice at 29%, followed by utilities offering off-peak rates (21%) , more retail choice (20%), appliance efficiency upgrades (17%), and real time updates on energy usage (13%).

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We also learned that a majority of Virginia homeowners who haven’t made any energy efficiency upgrades are interested in doing so, but see costs as a barrier.

Meeting electricity demand is a big topic in the state now and Dominion believes that adding expensive new power plants is the right path to go. However, residents clearly value  energy efficiency and other lower-cost options:

  • 84% of Virginians believe that utility providers should offer incentives for their customers to make energy efficiency upgrades to their homes before building new power plants;
  • 76% of Virginians support buying power from cheaper sources from in the state or in neighboring states; and
  • 92% of Virginians agree that a utility provider should make sure it is using existing energy sources efficiently before building a new power plant.

So as states like Virginia grapple with addressing future electricity needs, it is worth noting that residents expect utilities and regulators to explore affordable options first and not prioritize expensive construction projects that are likely to further drive up customers’ utility bills.

Learn how you can improve the energy efficiency of your home and to find programs offered by your state, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

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