Energy Efficiency in Your City

When we think about “decreasing our carbon footprint”, we often think to recycle more, eat local, bike to work or save up for a more fuel-efficient vehicle. What many of us don’t consider the impact of is our monthly electricity bill. How much electricity we use in our homes and apartments each month is often overlooked as one of the biggest contributors to our individual impact on the environment.

At Arcadia Power, we strive to help our members support clean energy, improve their efficiency, and save on their power bills. To better understand how individuals can improve efficiency in their day-to-day lives, we looked at the monthly electricity usage in 2017 of our members in 15 major cities across the U.S. In these cities, our members used an average of 620-kilowatt hours (kWh) a month.

But how does the electricity usage in one city compare to another city? Are New Yorkers using more electricity per month than San Franciscans? And what does this say about the culture in these cities, and what can they learn from one another?

Is Your City More Efficient?

To answer these questions, we looked a bit closer. Households in some cities clearly used far more electricity than others, but yearly weather conditions and home size can significantly impact how much electricity people need to power their home. So, we decided to normalize our findings based on 2017 temperature patterns and home size. What we found might surprise you:

    1. Projected Impact of Climate Change Damage ≠ Efficient Electricity Use: People who live in cities that are most at risk to the future impacts of climate change were also the least efficient in their usage of electricity.
    2. Competitive Energy Markets = Greater Efficiency: People who live in cities with competitive energy markets seem to be more efficient than people who live in cities with closed energy markets.

Miami, Atlanta, Georgia, Charlotte, and Phoenix are all expected to face potentially major losses due to climate change patterns. However, people in these cities used electricity more than they had to in 2017 and were far less efficient than people in other cities that are expected to fare just fine in the coming years — including Denver and Portland.

Florida alone is expected to see significant damage due to climate change, fueled by deadly heat waves and rising sea levels. It’s no secret that fossil fuel power generation is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. But Miami residents used over 60 percent more electricity a month than the nationwide average in 2017. When normalized for average home sizes and weather conditions, they still ranked as the least efficient city among 15 other major U.S. cities.

Fast-paced city life can leave little time for thinking about your energy efficiency. But there are simple steps that you can take every day to improve your home efficiency, without impacting your quality of life.

Take ten minutes to change your light bulbs to LEDs. Find a few seconds in the morning to unplug your coffee maker before heading to work. Make the conscious decision to run your laundry machine and dishwasher at night to avoid peak hours. Invest in a smart thermostat to better manage your heating and cooling. Implementing some or all of these changes will help you, and your neighbors, fight off the harmful impacts of climate change.