July 2018 data, the latest available, show that the average U.S. price – 13.12 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) – was down 0.7% compared with a year ago. If you live in Louisiana, you pay the lowest average residential electricity rates of any state in the country – 9.37 cents per kWh. The next lowest rate is in Washington, where residents pay an average of 9.79 cents per kWh.
Since consumer demand directly affects energy rates, it’s important to note seasonal trends of demand throughout the year. Overall, demand tends to be higher during the winter and summer months and lower during the fall and spring months. This pattern isn’t shocking since it’s normal for people to require more energy during extreme heat and extreme cold.
Aside from times of natural disasters and large-scale accidents, electricity prices tend to be steadily dictated by electricity demand. Typically, the price of electricity rises when demand rises. In turn, the lower demand is, the cheaper electricity rates become. This pattern is due to the fact that increased demand requires increased energy production. When extra energy is demanded, utilities are forced to use alternative sources of energy production that may cost more to operate. For example, when electricity demand reaches a high point in Texas, coal plants are used alongside the typical natural gas plants. These coal plants are costlier and less effective than natural gas plants, but are necessary to meet high electricity demand levels.
While there is a very strong argument for providing cheap, subsidized power for the poorest in society, this should be done in a way that limits subsidies to the really deserving and the system as a whole needs to be able to charge tariffs that on average cover all costs. If this doesn’t happen then all manner of bad things will follow. As you might guess prices have been set too low by African governments. These subsidies have also been made too widely available, benefitting the elite and middle classes more than the poor (who, not having good access to the grid in the first place, don’t have ready access to these subsidies).
In terms of renewable sources like solar and wind, weather impacts supply. California’s duck curve[cite] shows the difference between electricity demand and the amount of solar energy available throughout the day. On a sunny day, solar power floods the electricity generation market and then drops during sunless evening, when electricity demand peaks.
Electricity cannot be stored as easily as gas, it is produced at the exact moment of demand. All of the factors of supply and demand will therefore have an immediate impact on the price of electricity on the spot market. In addition to production costs, electricity prices are set by supply and demand. However, some fundamental drivers are the most likely to be considered.