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Good Source for U.S. Retail Energy Prices
Updated 22 June 2017
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In an earlier blog post, we asked the following question - if you're making a case for energy efficiency improvements to a non-technical decisionmaker, which of these statements is more effective:
"Equipment which is running 24x7 has a continuous demand of 50 kW"
"Equipment which is running 24x7 adds $71,000 to our annual electric bill"
It's pretty clear that talking money has more impact than talking kW or kWh. This is why most energy analyses, like our Meter Insights report, show use and savings opportunities in dollars (or euros, yen, etc.). "50 kW" is meaningless to most people, but $71,000 gets attention.
The conversion from energy and demand units to costs is straightforward if you have utility bills for the facility, or know its tariff. But what do you do if this information is not available? We see this a lot at , where clients send us interval energy data from a wide variety of sources, usually without any price information. All we know is the facility location.
Our earlier blog post discussed an excellent source of retail energy prices for facilities outside U.S., the International Energy Agency. But if the building is in the U.S., we use the Energy Information Administration (EIA) public domain database of retail energy prices.
Your tax dollars at work!
Washington DC skyline EIA provides historic retail electricity and natural gas prices, going as far back as 30 years. The latest prices are 3-4 months old, but EIA also forecasts prices to cover the lag. And it's all available on-line, for free (courtesy of U.S. taxpayers).
The historic prices are broken out by month, state, and sector (residential, commercial, industrial). You can manually download retail electricity prices with the "Electricity Data Browser" at
Click here to see a sample of the electricity price format. Natural gas prices can be downloaded at
Back to the future
As mentioned, the most recent historical prices are always 3-4 months old. Not to worry though, EIA forecasts retail prices over a year into the future. This is called "Short-Term Energy Outlook" (STEO), and we use these to fill the gap. You can download forecasts in CSV format at
The forecast prices are broken out by month and sector, just like the actual historical prices. They are not provided at the state level, but instead by regions, which are groups of 2-8 states.
APIs to the rescue!
Streaming numbers We use this data a lot at . So manual downloads aren't practical. But happily EIA provides an "application programming interface" (API) which enables all of these prices to be automatically retrieved.
We've been using these APIs for several years with no problems. The API documentation is at
You'll need to register and get an API key, but this is also free. The API enables you to download just the states, sectors, commodities, and months you need.
State and regional average prices are just that, averages, and not as good as having actual bill or tariff information for a facility. But they are "better than nothing", and certainly better than just reporting energy units which nobody outside the EE field can understand.
For more information about how uses data sources like EIA to create the Meter Insights report, please click here.
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