Wholesale electricity prices rose across the country during the first half of the year largely because of a jump in the price of natural gas, which is used as a fuel for power generation, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said this week.
The agency said spot natural gas prices at major hubs across the nation increased 42 percent to 146 percent from the first half of 2012 to the first half of this year. Natural gas prices had hit 10-year lows last year.
That was the major reason why average on-peak, day-ahead wholesale electricity prices rose across the country. On-peak hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The power price spike was greatest in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest because of natural gas supply issues, EIA said.
In Texas, the power price increase was much smaller than the rest of the nation, largely because of the mild weather this spring. The average wholesale electricity price in the ERCOT Houston Zone was $35.33 per megawatt-hour for the first half of 2013, up 13 percent from the year before, according to the EIA.
Read more: Grid operator delays decision on boosting capacity requirements
Breaking down the nation, EIA said:
–Wholesale electricity prices in New England were the highest in the nation this past winter mostly because of pipeline constraints that limited the delivery of natural gas. The average wholesale electricity price doubled at a major New England hub between the first half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, with the price soaring above $200 per megawatt-hour on several days during the winter.
–Power prices in the Northwest were 82 percent higher compared to the first half of 2012, largely because a decline in precipitation reduced hydroelectric generation and made the region more dependent on gas-fired power. The wholesale price in that region averaged $31.93 per megawatt-hour during the first half of the year.
–In California, power prices rose 59 percent to $42.43 per megawatt-hour. An outage at a nuclear generating station was blamed.
Also on FuelFix:
14 ways to slim your power bill this summer
apdk / Flickr
Angle blinds up: TXU Energy says that angling horizontal blinds so sunlight streams up can reduce the heat coming in and provide free natural light. When closed and lowered, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent.
kellen_butler / Flickr
Insulate lights: Canned or recessed lights can be a big source of air leaks. Selecting “IC” (insulation contact) models or installing approved covers over non-IC models can stop that.
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Use a fan: You can raise your thermostat setting by up to 4 degrees and not feel a difference if you also run a ceiling fan. Fans only make you feel cooler, though, so turn them off when you’re not in the room.
rlhyde / Flickr
Lower humidity: It takes longer to cool a humid home. The ideal humidity level is less than 60 percent in the summer.
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Moderate the thermostat: Lowering your thermostat setting does not cool your home more quickly. Many factors affect how quickly an indoor space cools. Thermostat set points are not among them.
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Check your water heater: Water heaters are factory set at 140 degrees. Lowering that to 120 degrees provides comfortably hot water and less energy consumption.
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Use a programmable thermostat: Most Americans with programmable thermostats don’t program them. New Energy Star® ratings for programmable thermostats may consider ease of use and online access.
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Seal your windows: If you want to save money this summer, you should start by looking for the places where you are losing money. Gaps between windows and doors are some of the most likely spots for energy loss.
Michael Paulsen / Houston Chronicle
Get the right A/C unit: Air conditioners are designed for specific sizes, and you can waste energy by having one too big or too small. You should make sure your unit is right for your home.
CraftyGoat / Flickr
Switch your light bulbs: You can save money by switching out old incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs. The modern light bulbs, which do have a different glow, can save you money on your electric bill.
wblo / Flickr
Change your air filter: A dirty air filter can make your air conditioner be less efficient, and it can ultimately cost you money on your electric bill.
Fitz Villafuerte / Flickr
Turn off lights: Many people forget to turn off lights and fans after leaving a room. By turning them off, you can save yourself some money on that electric bill.
trekkyandy / Flickr
Buy energy-efficient appliances: They may cost more at the store, but energy-efficient appliances can save you money on your electric bill.
danmachold / Flickr
Unplug unused appliances: You can save money by unplugging phone chargers or other kitchen appliances when they aren't in use.