Electric Rates Are Up — To Stay

Fossil-fired electricity prices went up significantly in the last six months of 2021 across the entire U.S. In California prices went up 37% year-over-year. The Midwest saw a 97% rise. You get the picture. Even worse, the increases are here to stay.

How can this be? Natural gas prices drive electricity prices, and gas is much more expensive now. That’s partly a post-Covid shortage, but it’s more a result of natural gas exports. Large gas-exporting facilities recently came online in the U.S. Now large volumes of domestic gas are being sold to pricey Asian and European markets, rather than captive to domestic consumption. In other words, local natural gas prices are now linked to higher world prices. The infrastructure has been built, so the linkage is here to stay.

US natural gas exports to higher priced foreign markets are up 700% in 5 years. They will go higher in 2022. Natural gas is the marginal fuel for electricity, which means that natural gas prices set electricity prices. 

How to respond? There are two basic ways to reduce energy costs. One is to access cheaper renewable options. The other is to use less energy by increasing your efficiency. Most states have incentive programs to help. But they are as confusing as they are plentiful. To sort through the complexity, Sustaine’s free Energy Scorecard is a great place to start.

Maine Energy Costs Going WAY Up

If your business buys electricity from Central Maine Power, prices for all of 2022 are up a whopping 82%. (Compare same month prices in 2022 to 2021.) If you’re in Versant, it’s 77%. Ouch!

If you’re buying power from the utility, brace yourself. (For help, see below.) Bills arriving in February – April will be about TWICE as much as last year. After that, the increase is only 25-30% for the rest of 2022. Not good news.

How can this be? Much higher exports of natural gas are the root cause, as we explain in another post.

What can you do? Plenty. In Maine you actually have a lot of options to manage electricity prices. In fact, there are so many choices (Maine has 44 different energy programs ) that it gets confusing quickly. Regardless, the best way to control energy costs–and this is key–is to move away from grid-based fossil-fueled electricity. A great place to start is with Sustaine’s free Energy Scorecard. From a single bill, Sustaine’s software ranks all the options for a given facility, revealing which option provides the greatest savings with the least effort. This includes renewable options as well as efficiency and competitive purchasing.

Indeed, if you’re already purchasing electricity competitively, you may be sheltered from the worst for 2022. Regardless, look now at multi-year competitive pricing. And if you’re supplied by CMP or Versant, let’s look right now: The worst prices are in the first quarter of 2022. Now is the perfect time to act.

Here’s more good news: Most solutions are available with no money down. Near-term solutions like competitive purchasing and community solar won’t cost you anything. In fact, even long-term solutions like onsite solar and efficiency improvements include financing. You’ll realize net savings from the very first month. So what are you waiting for?

If you’re ready to take control of your energy costs, and push back on CMP and Versant with their 80% price increases, it’s easy with Sustaine. Let’s get started.

Energy Scorecard: Sneak Peak

Sustaine’s unique and powerful software generates a customized Energy Scorecard from a single utility bill. The Scorecard reveals which of your energy options will deliver the most savings with the least effort–and it’s absolutely free.

Sustaine’s software reveals where the savings are. Our value-added service (also free!) secures the solution via competitive bids and delivers the savings to you.

To get your free Energy Scorecard and realize easy energy savings, simply contact Sustaine. We’re here to help.

Sustaine In the News: Berkshire Trade & Commerce

Sustaine is headquartered in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. The Berkshire region is a wonderful place to live and work, especially when you have a national market for your business like Sustaine does.

It’s terrific to get attention from the local press, too. Berkshire Trade & Commerce published this article about Sustaine that is particularly well-written. If you’d like to know a lot about Sustaine in just 3 minutes, it’s a great source.

Eversource-Western MA Rates Going Way Up

If you are supplied by Eversource in Western Massachusetts, get ready to pay a lot more. Starting January 1, small business rates are going up 46%. Oh, and you’ll pay more at home, too: Residential rates are going up 45%.

As we’ve previously written, prices do change seasonally, and it’s important to compare a full year of prices. But increases this large are 10-20% higher than even the last three winters. So it’s alarming.

Why is this happening? Electric rates follow natural gas prices. Natural gas world-wide is in a supply crunch as we recover from the pandemic. That’s pushing prices up.

Should you worry? If you have a competitive supply contract through 2022, you should be protected. If you’re part of a community choice aggregation, you probably are safe, too. If you don’t understand those terms, or if you aren’t sure what your situation is, the answers are likely buried in your electric bill. We’d be happy to take a look and explain your bill to you.

What can you do? Plenty. Massachusetts has some of the best energy incentives in the country. In most of Western Mass, you can access renewable energy AND save money, just like the Berkshire Innovation Center did. And you can do it via the electric grid, or with onsite renewables–so savings are available whether you own or rent your business. Oh, and you can save at home, too.

Sustaine will help you through all of this costly confusion. You do have choices! We’re here to help you identify and secure them, if you have 30 seconds to answer 3 simple questions.

Cleaner & Cheaper Energy for Berkshire Innovation Center

Sustaine is pleased to help the Berkshire Innovation Center take control of its energy usage. Switching to renewable energy saves the BIC money, saves carbon, and shows other businesses that they can have cleaner AND cheaper energy, too.

BIC Executive Director Ben Sosne adds, “As a non-profit public-private partnership focused on technology and innovation, we are very conscious of both our carbon footprint and our budgetary constraints.  That said, the options and incentives available were a bit overwhelming for us to navigate.  Sustaine simplified everything, helping us get 100% local clean energy, while also securing a 10% discount on our electric bill.  It was a no-brainer and we now regularly refer them to all the businesses we work with.”

Sustaine loves working with you, BIC!

Comparing Energy Rates

Utility rates are like tax rates. They’re set by government agencies. Your CPA understands tax rules, and helps you minimize your tax bill. To help you understand utility rules, and minimize your electric bill, consider this:

Buying power from electricity suppliers that compete with your utility may save you money, or it may not. Always compare any rate you’re offered with a full year of prices from your utility. Comparisons to the utility’s “current price” are suspect, because energy prices vary widely with the season. Only make a choice based on the 12-month average.

Do you need help finding a full year of prices from your utility? Sustaine can point you to it. Or if you’d like to see comparative savings from ALL of your energy options–including renewables and efficiency–Sustaine can help with that, too. Contact us!

Are You On the Right Utility Rate?

Utility rates are set by complicated government rules. Having insights into those rules can translate into a lower electric bill. To help you manage costs, Sustaine offers this insight:

Your electric bill is a function of the particular set of rules your utility uses to charge you (called a “rate class”).  Different businesses in the same utility can have different sets of rules. You may have a choice on the set of rules applied to you. If you do, that could be an easy savings opportunity.

If you’re curious about the rules that apply to your bill, and whether they’re the most advantageous for your business, Sustaine can tell you at no cost. Email us to get your free utility rate assessment.

What is Energy Conservation?

At its core, energy conservation is the practice of using less energy in order to lower costs and reduce environmental impact. This can mean using less electricity, gas, or any other form of energy that you get from your utility and pay for. With finite energy resources available on our planet, actively conserving energy when possible is beneficial individually and to our larger energy systems.