The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Where Americans pay the highest electricity bills

If you play with these maps of residential power sales, you’ll notice something interesting. States with more expensive electricity tend to use less of it, and vice versa.

As rising fuel costs and more stringent regulation increase the price of electricity, an important question is how households will respond. How high can they bear to turn the thermostat up in the summer? These data collected by the Energy Information Association show that power demands can vary quite a bit—in the South, for example, households use about twice as much electricity as households in New England.

A chart can help us clarify this relationship. Here, we plot household electricity use against the average price of electricity. As the price of electricity goes up, the amount of electricity that households use goes down. Simple enough. But it seems that households can only be so frugal. Past a certain price, around 15 cents per kWh, the relationship between price and energy consumption breaks down. In states where the average price is any higher, there doesn’t seem to be much decline in demand.

Hawaii is an extreme example of this. Households there use about the same amount of power each month as households in Maine, even though electricity costs more than twice as much in Hawaii (and nearly four times what people pay in places like Idaho and Washington). As a result, Hawaiians on average shell out a whopping $200 a month on electricity, far more than most households in the nation—except for, of course, the Garcias in Pueblo, Colorado.