MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Seattle area average energy prices: Gasoline, utility gas prices dip, electricity rises

Mar 17, 2024, 11:38 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 1:37 pm

Image: Prices at the gas pump in Washington have dipped. But they remain the among the highest in t...

Prices at the gas pump in Washington have dipped. But they remain the among the highest in the U.S. (MyNorthwest file photo)

(MyNorthwest file photo)

Gasoline prices and utility (piped) gas in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area in February fell, while households are paying more for electricity than last February as energy prices saw mixed results in the area, according to a news release Friday from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

As the BLS notes, the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metropolitan area consists of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties.

Prices for a gallon of gasoline

Gas prices averaged $4.225 per gallon in the Seattle area in February, the BLS stated. That’s 3.9% lower than February 2023, but 21.2% higher than the $3.486 national average.

A year earlier, consumers in the Seattle area paid 21.4% more than the national average for a gallon of gasoline, the BLS added. The local price of a gallon of gasoline has ranged from 12.2% to 21.4% above the national average in the month of February during the past five years, according to the release.

As of March 17, the average cost of a regular gallon of gas in the state of Washington $4.30, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Between March 7 and 14, Washington saw third highest increase in price per gallon (8 cents), according to a AAA press release issued Thursday. Two states saw 10-cent rises (Texas and Alaska) and two other areas experienced 9-cent jumps (Oregon and Washington, D.C.).

“This is the time of year we normally see pump prices start to rise,” AAA spokesperson Andrew Gross said in the release. “And while prices have been rather pokey so far, they should begin to accelerate and move higher very soon.”

A regular gallon of gas in King County currently averages just shy of $4.52, AAA reports. The cost is just over $4.36 in Pierce County and about $4.35 in Snohomish County. The number drops to around $3.90 per gallon in Spokane County in Eastern Washington.

Electricity costs rise

The 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) Seattle area households paid for electricity in February was 7.1% more than last February, the BLS reported. But that was 22% less than the nationwide average of 17.3 cents per kWh.

Last February, electricity costs were 25% lower in Seattle compared to the nation.

In the past five years, prices paid by Seattle area consumers for electricity were less than the U.S. average by 16.8% or more in the month of February.

As the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a federal government agency, previously noted, the state of Washington has some of the lowest average electricity rates in the country. The agency also reported that in 2022, hydroelectric power accounted for 67% of Washington’s total electricity net generation and the state typically contributes between one-fourth and one-third of all conventional hydroelectric generation in the nation annually.

But while rates in Washington may be lower than most of the rest of the country, they are still going up. Last month, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) announced it is filing a two-year rate plan request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) that would lead to an increase in rates for customers in 2025 and 2026. Seattle City Light announced late last year it would be raising rates as well.

“At this point, we’re at the financial situation where this is what we have to do to refill the (rate stabilization account),” Seattle City Light CFO Kirsty Grainger said in late 2023.

Affecting consumers: Electric bills will rise in 2024, Seattle City Light says

Customers north of Seattle will see a rise in rates as well. As the The Everett Daily Herald reported Sunday, the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s Board of Commissioners approved a 5.8% rate increase to make up for higher costs and financial challenges in the energy industry.

Utility or natural gas prices are down

Prices paid by Seattle area consumers for utility (piped) gas, commonly referred to as natural gas, were $1.146 per therm, 23.1% lower than last February, the BLS stated. (As technology company Arcadia explains, “a therm is a measurement of the amount of heat energy in natural gas, equal to 100,000 BTUs. A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the quantity of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.”)

That $1.146 per therm price is also 21.8% less than the national average in February 2024 ($1.465 per therm).

A year earlier, area consumers paid 7.3% less per therm for natural gas compared to the nation.

In the Seattle area over the past five years, the per therm cost for natural gas in February has varied between 21.8 percent below and 8.3 percent above the U.S. average.

‘Clean Energy Bill’: Controversial legislation drops ban on natural gas, may face challenge

In its rate-plan announcement last month, PSE stated that natural gas energy use is declining, down 7% for residential and 3% for commercial in 2023 and that is impacting rates as well. The company forecasts a continued decline over the next five years for several reasons, one of which included the warmer winters on average that mean less demand for heating.

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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