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Electricity explained Factors affecting electricity prices

Many factors influence electricity prices

Electricity prices generally reflect the cost to build, finance, maintain, and operate power plants and the electricity grid (the complex system of power transmission and distribution lines). Some for-profit utilities also include a financial return for owners and shareholders in their electricity prices.

Several key factors influence the price of electricity:

  • Fuels: Fuel prices, especially for natural gas and petroleum fuels (mainly in Hawaii and villages in Alaska), may increase during periods of high electricity demand and when fuel supply constraints or disruptions occur because of extreme weather events and accidental damage to transportation and delivery infrastructure. Higher fuel prices, in turn, may result in higher costs to generate electricity.
  • Power plant costs: Each power plant has financing, construction, maintenance, and operating costs.
  • Transmission and distribution system: The electricity transmission and distribution systems that connect power plants with consumers have construction, operation, and maintenance costs, which include repairing damage to the systems from accidents or extreme weather events and improving cybersecurity.
  • Weather conditions: Extreme temperatures can increase demand for heating and cooling, and the resulting increases in electricity demand can increase fuel and electricity prices. Rain and snow provide water for low-cost hydropower generation, and wind can provide low-cost electricity generation when wind speeds are favorable. However, when droughts or competing demand for water resources occur or when wind speeds drop, the loss of electricity generation from those sources can put upward pressure on other energy or fuel sources and prices.
  • Regulations: In some states, public service (utility) commissions fully regulate prices, and other states have a combination of unregulated prices (for generators) and regulated prices (for transmission and distribution).

did youknow


The cost of generating electricity is the largest component of the price of electricity.

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Electricity prices are usually highest in the summer

The cost to supply electricity changes minute by minute. However, most consumers pay rates based on the seasonal cost of electricity. Changes in prices generally reflect:

  • Variations in electricity demand
  • Availability of energy sources and fuels
  • Fuel costs
  • Power plant availability

Prices are usually highest in the summer when total demand is high because more expensive generation sources are added to meet the increased demand.

did youknow


The cost to supply electricity varies minute by minute.

The wholesale price of electricity on the electric power grid reflects the real-time cost for supplying electricity. Demand for electricity contributes to the cost of supplying electricity. Electricity demand is usually highest in the afternoon and early evening (peak hours), so costs to provide electricity are usually higher at these times.

Most consumers pay prices based on the seasonal average cost of providing electricity, so they do not experience these daily price fluctuations. Some utilities offer their customers time-of-day pricing to encourage electricity conservation and to reduce peak demand for electricity.

Electricity prices vary by type of customer

Retail electricity prices are usually highest for residential and commercial consumers because it costs more to distribute electricity to them. Industrial consumers use more electricity and can receive it at higher voltages, so supplying electricity to these customers is more efficient and less expensive. The retail price of electricity to industrial customers is generally close to the wholesale price of electricity.

In 2022, the U.S. annual average retail price of electricity was about 12.49¢ per kilowatthour (kWh).1

  • The annual average retail electricity prices by major types of utility customers in 2022 were:
  • Residential15.12¢per kWh
  • Commercial12.55¢per kWh
  • Industrial8.45¢per kWh
  • Transportation11.66¢per kWh

Electricity prices vary by locality

Electricity prices vary by locality based on the availability of power plants and fuels, local fuel costs, and pricing regulations. In 2022, the annual average retail electricity price for all types of electric utility customers ranged from 39.85¢ per kWh in Hawaii to 8.24¢ per kWh in Wyoming.2 Prices in Hawaii are high relative to other states mainly because most of its electricity is generated with petroleum fuels that must be imported into the state.

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, Table 5.3, February 2023, preliminary data.
2 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, Table 5.6.B, February 2023, preliminary data.

Last updated: June 29, 2023, with data from the Electric Power Monthly, February 2023; data for 2022 are preliminary.