Report: Americans to pay 8% more in cooling costs this summer 

National News

By Naveen Athrappully 
Contributing Writer 

American citizens likely will pay more in cooling costs this summer, with the Mid-Atlantic and Pacific regions seeing over 12% jump in related expenses, according to a joint report by the National Energy Assistance Directors Association and the Center for Energy Poverty, and Climate. 

“Home energy is becoming increasingly unaffordable for low-income families,” said the  report issued Monday. “The financial burden to families of keeping cool this summer will increase by 7.9% across the nation to an average of $719 from June through September, up from $661 during the same period last year.” In 2020, prior to the Biden administration coming to power, the average summer electric bill was $556. The 2024 bill indicates a nearly 30% jump from 2020. 

“Due to the unprecedented rise in summer temperatures and higher rates of extreme heat events over the last 10 years, the cost of summer cooling has risen from $476 in 2014 to a predicted $719 in 2024.” 

Region-wise, the highest cooling costs during summer will be borne by residents in the West South Central region, who will spend an estimated $858 on summer bills. The South Atlantic region comes in second with $792 for cooling, followed by the East South Central region with $774. 

The highest cost increase is projected to be in the Mid-Atlantic and the Pacific regions, where people may have to shell out 12.2% more this summer season compared to 2023. 

The report pointed out that these estimates could actually understate the final cooling costs for households this summer if temperatures continue to hit record levels. 

The NEADA-CEPC report raised concerns about the low coverage of summer shut-off protections — measures to ensure low-income households have access to cooling in summer even if they are behind on bills. Only 17 out of 50 states have these protections. 

“Low-income households in the other 33 states have no summer shut-off protections and could face dangerous health conditions caused by prolonged exposure to extreme heat,” the report stated. 

For people in households where electricity is cut off this summer because of non-payment of bills, being inside homes “is dangerous.” 

“In less extreme situations, a family can ride out a hot day by opening their windows, taking a cool shower, and hoping it cools down at night. But when the heat persists for weeks, or the outside air is dangerous, opening a window will only make things worse.” 

The report cited data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that the length of “heat wave seasons” — a time period between the first and last heat wave of a year in a particular location — has almost tripled. The EPA found that heat waves were occurring earlier and later than normal. 

The report estimated the total debts owed by consumers to utilities to be at $20.3 billion in December 2023, up from $17.5 billion in January that year. Around 16% of all U.S. households are calculated to be behind on energy bills. 

Regulations Against Air Conditioners, Freezers 

The joint agency report comes as the Biden administration has taken stringent rules affecting air conditioning units over the past year. 

In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, issued a final rule that requires cutting down use of hydrofluorocarbons by 40% by 2028, calling the chemical a “climate super-pollutant.” HFC is a type of synthetic refrigerant used in cooling systems like refrigerators, air conditioners and heat pumps. 

The phasedown of HFC already began in January 2022, with the production and export of the chemical requiring special allowances. With the final rule, the number of these allowances will see a “significant decrease.” 

On Dec. 29, the U.S. Department of Energy finalized efficiency standards for residential refrigerators and freezers that it said would result in energy savings of 5.6 quadrillion British thermal units over three decades. 

“The standards would save consumers $36.4 billion over 30 years of shipments and result in cumulative emission reductions of nearly 101 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — an amount roughly equivalent to the combined annual emissions of 12.7 million homes.” 

In a Jan. 11 blog post, the Institute for Energy Research warned that these standards, which will be implemented by the end of the decade, would take “less efficient and less expensive models off the market, limiting consumer choice.” 

Meanwhile, Americans are facing the prospect of higher summer cooling costs while also potentially seeing blackouts during the season. 

A May report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation states that parts of America could face difficulties in meeting electricity demand during the summer season, with renewable energy sources like wind and solar power posing a potential risk to reliable power supply. 

Michelle Bloodworth, the chief executive of America’s Power, a partnership of industries involved in producing electricity from coal, said the assessment reveals that the American electricity grid is “increasingly reliant on weather-dependent sources of electricity” like solar and wind power. 

This puts “one-third of the country at elevated risk of blackouts this summer,” she said. 

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