Brace for higher summer cooling bills



While Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners consider a $332 million rate hike request by Oklahoma Gas and Electric, one supported by businesses and non-profits who were asked by the utility recently to attend a public hearing, a study shows electric bills nationwide will likely increase nearly 8% from a year ago.

The National Energy Assistance Directors Association along with the Center for Energy Poverty and Climate released a report this month showing the average U.S. electric bill over the June-through-September period is projected to be $719. Not only is it 8% more than a year ago when the average bill was $661, but also the highest average in 10 years.

Due to the unprecedented rise in summer temperatures and higher rates of extreme heat events over the last ten years, the cost of summer cooling has risen from $476 in 2014 to a predicted $719 in 2024. (This increase has been calculated by NEADA, based on NOAA temperature data and EIA electric usage and price data.)

The two organizations report that the increase in summer-time electric use comes as federal funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program was reduced by $2 billion.

The dangers of extreme heat leave low-income families at heightened risk, due to lack of access to affordable summer cooling, increasing electric costs and cutbacks in funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) from $6.1 billion in FY 23 to $4.1 billion for FY 24.

States have reported that due to the reduction in federal funds, they will have no choice this year but to reduce the number of households served by about one million, and reduce average heating and cooling benefits. About 80% of program funds will be used for heating, leaving only 20% available for home cooling despite predictions of another summer of unprecedented high temperatures.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia provide some summer shut-off 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.

For households who will be shut off from electricity this summer because they cannot afford their bills, even being inside their 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.

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