Electricity on Sale


Electric bills 1.37% of consumer expenditures

Today in Fortnightly

Just before Christmas, the Commerce Department reported that electric bills were 1.37% of consumer expenditures in the US in November 2015.  What's the importance of this statistic?  

To put it into perspective, in only ten other months in history was electricity a lower percent of consumer expenditures.  The Commerce Department has collected the data for 683 months now, for all of the period of January 1959 (when Dwight Eisenhower was President) through November 2015.  

The all-time record low was in August 2004.  Keep in mind there's a lag between when households use electricity and when they pay for it.  So a summer month can have relatively lower payments of electric bills.  In August 2004, electricity was only 1.31% of consumer expenditures.  

This means the November 2015 statistic was barely above the all-time record low, by just six-hundreds of a percent.   In only four months in history has the percent been less than 1.35%.  Last November was just two-hundreds of a percent above that very low level.

Bottom line, electric bills were extraordinarily low last November, relative to consumer expenditures in total, as they have been since March 2015.  In the last nine months, the percent has been less than or at 1.50%.  

To put that into perspective, 1.50% is roughly equivalent to the fraction one-sixty-seventh.  In other words, for almost all of 2015, less than one-sixty-seventh of consumer expenditures went towards paying electric bills.

As electricity took up 1.37% of consumer expenditures, cell phone services took up almost as much, 1.00%.  This excludes what Americans pay for land-line telecommunications.  Natural gas bills took up 0.60%.  Water and sewer bills took up 0.36%.  

The all-time record high was in August 1983.  That month, electricity was 2.53% of consumer expenditures.  Since that time a little over 32 years ago, electricity's significantly lower percent of consumer expenditures presently enables Americans to now spend 1.16% of their total expenditures on other goods and services they need and want.

Starting with the February issue, Public Utilities Fortnightly will exclusively present such insightful measures of the electric and gas utilities industry, in our new Mega-Metrics centerfold.

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly

E-mail me: mitnick@fortnightly.com