U.S. Electricity and natural gas prices explained

ALBANY - There are a lot of factors that affect the price of energy. What’s included in the price to heat homes and supply them with electricity may be a lot more than some people may think.

Generating electricity is the largest component of its price, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Generation accounts for 56% of the price of electricity, while distribution and transmission account for 31% and 13% respectively.

Homeowners and businesses pay more for electricity than industrial companies. This is because industrial companies can take electricity at higher voltages, reducing transmission costs for energy companies.

“Industrial consumers use more electricity and can receive it at higher voltages, so supplying electricity to these customers is more efficient and less expensive. The price of electricity to industrial customers is generally close to the wholesale price of electricity,” EIA explains.

NYSEG said based on the average use of 600 kilowatt-hours per month, its customers spent the most money on delivery and transition charges in 2020, 57% or about $42. They also spent on average 35% (~$26) on supply charges and 8% (~$6) on surcharges.

Electricity prices are usually higher in the summer. Why? Because energy companies use sources of electricity that cost more money. It used to be that renewable sources, like solar and wind, were the most expensive sources of energy but increased technological advances have changed this, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2021 World Energy Outlook.

“In most markets, solar PV or wind now represents the cheapest available source of new electricity generation. Clean energy technology is becoming a major new area for investment and employment – and a dynamic arena for international collaboration and competition,” the report said.

Natural gas
The price of natural gas is driven by supply and demand. If there is more supply, prices are generally lower. If there is not as much supply, prices are generally higher the EIA explains. On the other side of the equation, more demand can also increase the price and less demand can decrease the price.

Higher prices mean people turn their home thermostats down a few degrees to save money, so the EIA said reduced demand can encourage companies to produce more natural gas, which would in turn help lower the cost. Lower prices will sometimes cause companies to reduce their production, therefore causing the price to rise.

The three major supply factors that affect prices: the amount of natural gas produced, how much is stored, and the volume of gas imported and exported. The three major demand factors that affect price are: changes in winter/summer weather, economic growth, as well as how much other fuels are available and their price, said EIA.

To think the price of natural gas is higher when the economy is thriving may sound counterintuitive but that’s exactly what happens. The EIA said this is because of increases in demand.


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