State enjoys low energy bills

LIHUE — Hawaii residents pay less than most of the country in total energy bills.

Residents in the Aloha State pay on average, $264 in total energy costs a month, making it 37th in the nation, according to a recently released WalletHub study.

But Hawaii ranks 10th in the nation for high electricity costs. Residents pay, on average, $145 monthly for electricity.

“Hawaii has a higher cost of living than many other states, and electricity is no exception,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub analyst.

As part of the study, WalletHub analysts compared the total monthly energy bills in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They took into account several kinds of energy types, including electricity, natural gas, motor fuel and home heating oil.

Hawaii residents pay $115 a month for motor fuel. Residents don’t pay a thing for home-heating oil.

Hawaii also has the lowest average monthly consumption of electricity per consumer, coming in at 489 kilowatt-hours, which is 3.1 times lower than in Louisiana, registering the highest.

Gonzalez said that’s because of a difference in climate.

“Hawaii, with its temperate climate, has a monthly electricity consumption of 489 kWh per total housing units. Louisiana, with its scorching summers, has a monthly electricity consumption of 1,521 kWh per total housing units,” she said.

Beth Tokioka, spokeswoman for the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, said the numbers for Hawaii are consistent with what the cooperative is reporting for Kauai users.

“The average bill reported here is consistent with our average residential member using roughly 500 kWh per month,” she said.

Over the past two years, there has been a slight increase in energy use on Kauai during the summer, but it’s not a significant amount, Tokioka said. “Energy usage among our residential members on Kauai is fairly even from month to month,” she said.

Tokioka was pleased with the study’s findings.

“This report is positive in that it validates that our energy bills are among the lowest in the country,” Tokioka said. “That’s a reflection on both our lower energy usage and KIUC’s efforts to keep costs as low as possible by incorporating more renewables onto the grid via long-term purchase power agreements at prices that are at or below the current cost of diesel.”

For example, KIUC is working toward having 50 percent of Kauai’s power be generated by renewable energy by 2023 and 100 percent by 2045. Earlier this year, the co-op said the island will reach 50 percent by next year, and have set a new goal of 70 percent by 2030.

Additionally, Kauai welcomed a 52 MWh Tesla Powerpack plus SolarCity solar farm in March. The farm, which is located on 50 acres of land in Kapaia, is the largest integrated solar and battery facility in the world.

“If Hawaii could become less dependent on fossil fuels and more reliant on clean energy generated within its borders, that would cut some costs in the long-run,” Gonzalez said.

According to the study, residents in several states, including Michigan, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota and Wisconsin, pay somewhere in the $260-range for total monthly energy costs.

Washington, D.C., Washington state and Colorado residents have the lowest total average monthly bill, ranging from at $219 to $228.

South Carolina pays the most in the country for electricity, at $173, and is closely followed by Alabama and Connecticut.

New Mexico residents pay the least for electricity — $90 a month — followed closely by Utah and Colorado.

Gonzalez has several suggestions for how consumers can keep their bills down, wherever they live.

“Some tips on how to lower energy bills include turning lights off when you walk out of a room, keeping the thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, switching out all incandescent bulbs with LEDs, and wall insulation,” she said.

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