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Climate and Environment

The Temperature Goes Down, Bills Go Up. Can Renewable Energy Save Our Pockets?

An aerial view shows a desert road stretching into the horizon on the left and a large field full of rows of solar panels on the right.
An aerial image shows solar panels part of an electricity generation plant on June 18, 2021 in Kern County near Mojave.
(Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images)
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This winter storm will bring more spikes to our gas and electric bills. But as the climate crisis is moving us towards, could an all-electric future help us save money?

The answer is complicated. While the cost of solar and wind power has exponentially declined in the last 15 years, much of our electricity is still generated by burning natural gas at power plants, so electricity prices are tied to gas prices. Infrastructure needs and outdated rate structures also have an outsize impact on your bill.

Renewable energy isn't reducing utility bills ... yet

So why are electric bills so high?

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Even though power sources such as wind and solar are now cheaper than fossil fuels (or on par, depending on market swings), unless you have rooftop solar panels, you probably haven't seen any effect on your bills. A lot of that is because what goes into what we pay for gas and electricity isn’t just about the energy we use.

What's in that electric bill?

Most of what’s in our electric bills is actually for fixed costs, like hardening the grid against wildfires or subsidizing energy efficiency programs, said Severin Borenstein, an energy policy professor at UC Berkeley.

“The problem we have right now is that we are paying for all of these expenses, other than the actual cost of providing electricity,” he said.

For more of us to benefit from cheaper renewable energy, Borenstein says rate structures need an overhaul and the state needs to cover bigger slices of the fixed costs attached to our bills.

If I'm not saving money, why turn off the gas?

Transitioning to cleaner energy is necessary to lower global carbon pollution and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.

Not only are gas shortages and alleged price gouging by oil companies making our bills skyrocket, the climate crisis is driving increasingly volatile weather that can lead to unexpected jumps in energy use. That electric bill will also grow as the gas bill shrinks...but equity for those left last on gas is a big question.

Is there a way to reduce my gas bill now?

Yes! There are various assistance programs to help with soaring prices. Check this out:
You May Be Eligible For Help With Your Sky High Gas Bill, Depending On Your Household Income. Here Are The Details

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