May 11, 2022
Electricity prices are rising in much of the country at the same time that climate change is contributing to extreme heat and a high chance of blackouts this summer.
For consumers, the result is an increase in financial strain to pay for a product that often is less reliable than before.
The national average electricity price for households is on track to rise 4 percent this year compared to 2021, which would be the largest percentage increase since 2008, the Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday. One of the main reasons for the price surge is a rise in the cost of natural gas, the leading fuel for power plants. The New England region is poised to get the worst of it, with a projected increase of 15 percent.
This follows recent warnings from grid operators serving California and the Midwest that they may not have enough power plants available this summer to meet customer needs at times of high demand.
The problems of high prices and potential blackouts are intertwined in that they both have roots in the failure of the government, utilities and grid operators to manage the risks tied to climate change and the transition to clean energy, analysts said.
“There’s a real concern that not only is basic affordability threatened, but system planning as a whole is broken,” said John Howat, senior energy analyst for the National Consumer Law Center.
Greg Cunningham, vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, a Boston-based environmental advocacy group, said he is frustrated that many observers will see the problems with high prices and poor reliability and say the transition to clean energy is moving too quickly.
“We are invariably going to hear, at least in this region, calls for increased gas supply to the region, which are entirely counterintuitive and fail to recognize the root cause of the problem that we’re in: the combination of climate change and an overreliance on highly priced, volatile fuels,” he said.
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