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Study: Alabamians pay more for electricity than all other Americans


Expert findings suggest Alabamians pay the most for their monthly electrical bills. Personal finance website WalletHub released a national study examining the total monthly energy bills in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

WalletHub reports Alabama is the 28th most energy-expensive state in the country. This is based on residents’ average monthly consumption of electricity, natural gas, home heating oil, motor fuel and several other factors.

While Alabama does not have the highest electricity prices in the country, it does have the most expensive monthly electricity costs. According to WalletHub, residents on average spend $179 on electricity every month.

Anthony Cook is a spokesperson for Alabama Power, a power company that serves 1.5 million Alabamians. Cook said extreme weather forces many residents to rely on electricity, causing monthly bill prices to soar.

“We have extreme swings in our weather,” he said. “During the summer, we have really high temperatures. We have some episodes of really cold winters. That's when people use the air conditioner or their heat more. That's the reason you see those spikes and that explains why our customers are spending more on power. It’s because we consume more electricity.”

Though weather patterns cause a majority of high bill costs, Cook said individual factors lead some Alabamians to use more electricity than others.

“Every person has different comfort levels,” he said. “I think about me and my wife. I’m more comfortable at about 74 [degrees Fahrenheit], but my wife is more comfortable at about 68. We are constantly battling over the thermostat. From home to home, generally, what drives the use of your electricity is going to be those large appliances like your thermostat, your air conditioner and your heater. The temperature outside is going to drive how much you use those large appliances inside.”

WalletHub reports Alabama is also the third largest electricity consumer in the nation.

Though monthly electric costs are highest in Alabama, Cook said Alabama Power customers are spending less for electricity than they did last year. Consumers spent 15% less on their monthly electrical bills during the first three months of this year compared to the first three months last year. Information is not yet released on monthly electricity costs for April through June.

“That’s probably due to having a mild winter,” Cook said. “This year, we didn’t have long stretches of extremely cold weather. It has been fairly mild in terms of the temperature. We haven’t had to crank that thermostat up or keep the heat on as much as we did last year.”

Despite a price decrease in monthly electrical bills, Cook said it is hard to predict how much bills will cost for the rest of the summer.

“That's always tough to predict because we follow the weather patterns,” he said. “If it starts to cool off sooner, say the end of August [or] mid-September versus late October or early November, then you could see milder temperatures lead to lower bills. Typically in Alabama, we don't stop using our air conditioner until late October just because we have those spikes in the temperature where you can have 75, 80 or 90 degree days at any point during that time.”

While the future of monthly electricity costs remains up in the air, Cook said Alabamians can save money a few different ways. This includes:

  • Budget Billing: Alabama Power customers can pay an average of their monthly bills every month as opposed to paying high-costing bills in the summer and the winter
  • Usage Alerts: Alabama Power customers can download the Alabama Power app and sign up for usage alerts. These reminders alert customers when they are close to passing their set energy amount and gauge when they should dial back their energy use
  • Billing Assistance: Alabama Power customers can ask for billing assistance. Alabama Power partners with several organizations, including the Salvation Army, to help customers who need financial relief

Cook said Alabama Power also offers 133 different energy saving tips on its website. Some of these tips include:

  • Using ceiling fans, portable fans or natural ventilation as opposed to air conditioning
  • Use natural lighting early in the day and late in the afternoon as opposed to high-wattage lights or room lights
  • Use nightlights at night as opposed to high-wattage lights or room lights
  • Seal and insulate all parts of the house. Ensure attic insulation is 10 to 12 inches deep
  • Do not use too much soap when washing clothes. Avoid second washes
  • Use one oven to prepare whole meals
  • Replace air filters in heating and cooling units. Replace air filters more frequently in pet-friendly homes
  • Ensure air conditioning vents are not blocked and fully open
  • Try to set the thermostat at 78 degrees Fahrenheit or above in the summer. If there is a ceiling fan in the room, try to keep the thermostat at 80 degrees or warmer
  • Place carpets and rugs in high traffic areas of the home to keep feet warm

“We are aware of the challenges of paying high bills,” Cook said. “We want to make sure we give every opportunity for our customers to conserve energy and to save money on paying their bills.”
More information on billing assistance, budget billing and energy saving tips can be found on Alabama Power’s website.

Joshua LeBerte is a news intern for Alabama Public Radio.
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