Most in US think power prices high, rising: poll

Most in US think power prices high, rising: poll

Megawatt Daily

By Markham Watson

Most Americans think electricity and natural gas prices are high now, and most expect electricity prices to rise over the next six months, while almost half expect natural gas prices to rise, a survey released Thursday shows.

However, the semiannual University of Texas Energy Poll shows that those percentages who expect higher prices are at their lowest level in the survey’s five-year history.

At the UT Energy Week symposium in Austin, Texas, Thursday, Sheril Kirshenbaum, UT Energy Poll director, presented the results of the latest set of questions posed in January to 2,043 respondents geographically dispersed across the US.

Of those respondents, 68% thought electricity prices were high, and 51% thought natural gas prices were high, but those numbers were down from peaks of 79% (in March 2012) and74% (in March 2014), respectively.

The survey indicated that 54% expected electricity prices to rise in the next six months, which is down from a peak of 70% in the survey conducted in September 2012. Only 47% of respondents expected natural gas prices to rise in the next six months, but that is down from a peak of 66% in March 2012.

The percentage who expected electricity prices to decrease in six months was at the highest level in the survey’s history, at 7%, contrasted with a minimum of 2% in September 2011. The percentage who expected natural gas prices to decrease was also at the highest level in the survey’s history, at 9%, compared with a minimum of 3% in September 2011.

Kirshenbaum said people’s expectations for future prices may be influenced by whether prices had recently risen or fallen – that is, if prices had recently risen, a higher percentage expected prices to be higher six months from when they were asked the question.

“I think prices have been so unusual, there has been no rhyme or reason as to what people expect,” Kirshenbaum said.

The survey covered other forms of energy, such as gasoline, for which 56% expected prices to rise in six months, and heating oil, for which 46% expected prices to rise in six months.

When asked whether people expected energy costs to take up a larger share of their budget in 12 months, 55% expected that percentage to increase, but this was down from a peak of 76% in March 2012.

Optimism about energy future growing

The respondents showed a trend toward expecting the US energy situation to improve over the next 25 years, with 40% expecting the situation to be better in 2040, compared with 24% expecting the situation to worsen. This is almost exactly the opposite result from the first survey, in September 2011, when only 23% expected the US energy situation to improve over the next 25 years, while 41% expected it to worsen.

Almost three out of four respondents – 73% – thought climate change is occurring, including 90% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans, and 66% of all respondents say climate change is “mostly due to human actions.”

Asked about the best way to assure US energy security and independence, 58% said government and industry should work together, 14% said market forces should prevail, 14% said the federal government should prevail, and 14% were unsure or had no opinion.