01/28/2021

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California Energy Price Data for November 2020

Below are the monthly updates from the most current November 2020 fuel price data (GasBuddy.com) and September 2020 electricity and natural gas price data (US Energy Information Agency). The September data incorporates the final electricity data published for 2019, which affects the previously reported monthly averages and rankings which are all calculated on a 12-month moving average basis. To view these updates along with additional data and analysis related to the California economy, visit our website at www.centerforjobs.org/ca.

As with prior reports, the most recent data continues to show a surge in California energy costs compared to the rest of the nation, driven primarily by the state’s expanding regulations over this key component in the cost of living and the cost of operating a business.

Other recent data reports from the Center illustrate the extent to which the state’s pandemic strategies have intensified the two-tier structure of the state’s economy, focusing the impacts on lower wage workers while leaving higher wage jobs largely untouched. The continuing rounds of closures and reopenings have primarily affected industries with a larger small business component and those with lower wage jobs. The higher wage industries have largely minimized the effect on jobs and incomes for their workers through teleworking, and as reflected in the stock market surges since this dual economic outcome became apparent, many have in fact have continued operating fully during this period.

The employers and workers least able to afford the disruptions from the state’s strategies have been the ones most impacted. The continued surge in energy prices creates yet another barrier to their eventual economic recovery that is unique to this state and that has been created by this state. In the most recent results below, California’s commercial electricity rates are the highest among the contiguous states, and the industrial rates now lag only those in Rhode Island. Residential natural gas prices went from 37th highest in 2010—the year the climate change program early action items went into effect under AB 32—to 10th highest in the latest data. Commercial and industrial price rankings saw similar shifts, but less from the price increases in California seen during this period and more from the price drops experienced in most other states.

Throughout the current emergency period, actions have been taken in response to concerns over the ability of many lower income households to afford their monthly rent, especially those lower wage workers who now comprise the bulk of the unemployed and the workers who have left the labor force altogether. No attention has been paid to the energy components of housing costs, and in fact the regulatory agencies have shown no comparable forbearance under the current crisis conditions by continuing to promulgate regulations that will increase energy prices even further.

In the Center’s Affordability Index update, energy (electricity and natural gas) was 6.8% of total housing costs for the average homeowner in 2019, and 6.7% for the average renter, but these costs varied widely across the state as a result of differences in climate and income levels. Costs ranged from an average of 4.4% of total housing costs for homeowners in the high-income counties of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Barbara, to nearly three times this level at 12.7% in the southern part of the Central Valley and higher in Imperial and some of the mountain counties. Similarly, renters in San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Santa Clara, and Alameda paid an average of 4.5% of their housing costs for energy. In the Central Valley’s more variable climate, the average renter in the southern part saw 15.1% of their housing costs going to energy, rising to a fifth in many mountain counties and over a quarter in Imperial County.

Lower wage workers similarly have faced a disparate impact from higher fuel prices in the current crisis. California’s gasoline prices continue to lag only Hawaii’s as the highest in the country, costing $1.14 more a gallon than the average for the rest of the states and $1.41 a gallon more than the lowest cost state as a result of the state’s fuel regulations, highest-in-the-nation fuel taxes, and a market isolated by regulations from the rest of the country and the world. Higher wage workers have been able to avoid these added costs, again through a rapid shift to telework. Following the near collapse in public transit ridership, essential workers and lower wage workers turning to jobs in deliveries, warehousing, and similar options that have remained open have relied more heavily on vehicles as their only commute option.

The rapid shift to telework as an accepted operations model means higher wage workers now have the flexibility to adjust to these and the other the high costs of living in California by shifting where they live if not avoiding them altogether by moving to another state while retaining their jobs and career prospects. This new work model similarly increases the options for companies to move their headquarters or other operations out of state, joining companies such as Hewlett Packard, Palantir, CBRE Group, McKesson, Charles Schwab, Commercial Metals Co., Core-Mark, Jamba Juice, and others. In particular, access to the workforce essential to the success of many tech companies is no longer limited to a few core regions, but can now be accessed nationwide under telework.

The lower wage workers and the service and tourism industries most heavily affected in the current crisis have fewer such options. These come from businesses reliant on serving resident populations or are travel/tourism oriented operations dependent on their particular location. Many will be under challenge to survive as they exhaust their capital under the continuing rounds of closure, markets for smaller retailers remain permanently shifted to a few larger internet sellers, telecommuting workers continue to work in places other than in the prior job centers supporting restaurants and shops, and as confidence in the safety of travel only slowly returns. The continued rise in regulation-driven energy costs will add to the challenges faced by these workers and businesses.

California vs. US Fuel Price Gap at 55.5% Premium

$1.14
Price Per Gallon
Above US Average
(CA Average)

The November average price per gallon of regular gasoline in California eased 2 cents from October to $3.18. As prices eased further in the rest of the country, the California premium above the average for the US other than California ($2.05) rose to $1.14, a 55.5% difference.

2nd
Ranked By Price

In November, California had the 2nd highest gasoline price among the states and DC, behind only Hawaii. Californians paid $1.41 a gallon more than consumers in Missouri, the state with the lowest price.

California vs. US Diesel Price

$1.02
Price Per Gallon
Above US Average
(CA Average)

The November average price per gallon of diesel in California rose 1 cent from October to $3.35. The California premium above the average for the US other than California ($2.33) eased to $1.02, a 43.6% difference.

2nd
Ranked By Price

In November, California had the 2nd highest diesel price among the states and DC, behind only Hawaii.

Range Between Highest and Lowest Prices by Region

$1.29
Price Per Gallon
Above US Average
(Central Sierra Region)

The cost premium above the US (other than California) average price for regular gasoline ranged from $1.05 in the Central Valley Region (average November price of $3.10), to $1.29 in Central Sierra Region (average November price of $3.34).

Highest/Lowest Fuel Prices by Legislative District:

November 2020: Average Price ($ per gallon) of Regular Gasoline
LegislatorHighest $ Per Gallon
CD12 (Pelosi-D)$3.51
CD02 (Huffman-D)$3.36
CD14 (Speier-D)$3.36
CD33 (Lieu-D)$3.34
CD18 (Eshoo-D)$3.32
SD11 (Wiener-D)$3.46
SD13 (Hill-D)$3.38
SD02 (McGuire-D)$3.35
SD26 (Allen-D)$3.33
SD09 (Skinner-D)$3.32
AD17 (Chiu-D)$3.51
AD19 (Ting-D)$3.42
AD50 (Bloom-D)$3.40
AD24 (Berman-D)$3.40
AD22 (Mullin-D)$3.36
November 2020: Average Price ($ per gallon) of Regular Gasoline
LegislatorLowest $ Per Gallon
CD22 (Nunes-R)$3.08
CD40 (Roybal-Allard-D)$3.07
CD47 (Lowenthal-D)$3.07
CD16 (Costa-D)$3.07
CD10 (Harder-D)$3.03
SD31 (Roth-D)$3.09
SD20 (Leyva-D)$3.08
SD05 (Galgiani-D)$3.08
SD14 (Hurtado-D)$3.07
SD29 (Chang-R)$3.06
AD47 (Reyes-D)$3.07
AD32 (Salas-D)$3.07
AD60 (Cervantes-D)$3.07
AD12 (Flora-R)$3.04
AD65 (Quirk-Silva-D)$3.03

California Residential Electricity Price

56.5%
Above Average for
Rest of US

California average Residential Price for the 12 months ended September 2020 was 19.80 cents/kWh, 56.5% higher than the US average of 12.65 cents/kWh for all states other than California. California’s residential prices remained the 6th highest in the nation.

California Residential Electric Bill

32.6%
Growth Since 2010

For the 12 months ended September 2020, the average annual Residential electricity bill in California was $1,318, or 32.6% higher ($324) than the comparable bill in 2010 (the year the AB 32 implementation began with the Early Action items). In this same period, the average US (less CA) electricity bill for all the other states grew only 3.2% ($43).

Residential bills, however, vary widely by region, with the estimated annual household usage in 2018 as much as 59% higher in the interior regions compared to the milder climate coastal areas.

$6.6b
Premium Above
US Average Price

For the 12 months ended September 2020, California’s higher electricity prices translated into Residential ratepayers paying $6.6 billion more than the average ratepayers elsewhere in the US using the same amount of energy.

California Commercial Electricity Price

74.4%
Above Average for
Rest of US

California average Commercial Price for the 12 months ended September 2020 was 17.47 cents/kWh, 74.4% higher than the US average of 10.02 cents/kWh for all states other than California. California’s commercial prices were the 3rd highest in the nation, and the highest among the contiguous states. Only Alaska and Hawaii had higher commercial prices.

California Industrial Electricity Price

126.6%
Above Average for
Rest of US

California average Industrial Price for the 12 months ended September 2020 was 14.25 cents/kWh, 126.6% higher than the US average of 6.29 cents/kWh for all states other than California. Incorporating the revised data for 2019, California’s industrial prices rose to the 4th highest in the nation. Among the contiguous states, only Rhode Island had higher industrial prices.

$11.7b
Premium Above
US Average Price

For the 12 months ended September 2020, California’s higher electricity prices translated into Commercial & Industrial ratepayers paying $11.7 billion more than ratepayers elsewhere in the US using the same amount of energy.

California Natural Gas Prices

Average prices ($ per thousand cubic feet) for the 12 months ended September 2020 and changes from the previous 12-month period for each end user:

Residential Commercial Industrial
CA, September 2020 $13.87 $9.53 $7.46
CA, September 2019 $12.96 $9.29 $7.55
Change 7.0% 2.6% -1.2%
Rest of US, September 2020 $10.19 $7.24 $2.87
Rest of US, September 2019 $10.26 $7.61 $3.79
Change -0.7% -4.9% -24.3%
CA premium over Rest of US, September 2020 36.1% 31.6% 159.9%
CA premium over Rest of US, September 2019 26.3% 22.1% 99.2%