The monthly energy updates have just been published for May 2020 fuel prices (data from and electricity prices and natural gas prices for March 2020 (price data from the US Energy Information Agency). Through the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, California’s energy costs unfortunately continue to be more expensive than the rest of the United States.

While prices for gasoline have backed off slightly, the level of California energy prices compared to the rest of the US remain high as a result of the State’s regulatory mandates. These much higher costs will likely impact the State harder than the rest of the country, particularly as the reopening of the economy from the 3-month shutdown resulting from COVID-19 begins in the coming month.

Current projections from the Governor and Legislative Analysts’ Office are anticipating a prolonged recovery period, with job levels not likely recovering until after 2024. These conditions consequently would be similar to the slow recovery just experienced by the State from the recession that began in 2008. The key difference is that energy is starting at a much higher price point and will continue to grow higher as additional components on tap in the regulatory programs continue to come into play.

According to a report from the Center for Jobs and the Economy, “…for households, these higher costs will continue to command a higher relative share of incomes compared to other states, both from direct payments for gasoline and utilities but also for other goods and services as the energy costs are incorporated into prices for everyday purchases. Recovery will be more challenging as the energy-related components in the cost of living continue to rise, especially if job markets are slow to recover as projected and growth in household incomes remains behind the growth in costs.”

The report goes on to say that for employers, “… these higher prices apply directly to the costs of operation, and mean currently constrained cash flow resources going to regulation-driven costs rather than resumption of prior job levels. In most other parts of the US, the current lower energy prices will serve to help accelerate the recovery. In California, costs will continue to rise and have the opposite effect.”

As we endeavor to provide the most reliable and current information on the realities of energy costs, we also continue to urge that true energy independence means that more of our energy needs must be locally sourced.

California Gasoline Prices in May

  1. The May average price per gallon of regular gasoline in California rose 2 cents from April to $2.84. The California premium above the average for the US other than California ($1.85) eased to 99.2 cents, a 53.7% difference.
  2.   In May, California had the 2nd highest gasoline price among the states and DC, behind only Hawaii. Californians paid $1.29 a gallon more than consumers in Mississippi, the state with the lowest price.

California Residential Electricity Prices in May

  1.   California average Residential Price for the 12 months ended March 2020 was 19.57 cents/kWh, 54.6% higher than the US average of 12.66 cents/kWh for all states other than California. California’s residential prices remained the 7th highest in the nation.
  2.   For the 12 months ended March 2020, the average annual residential electricity bill in California was $1,225, or 23.2% higher ($231) 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 1.0% ($14).
  3.   Note: 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.

California Commercial and Industrial Electricity Prices in May

  1.   California average Commercial Price for the 12 months ended March 2020 was 17.06 cents/kWh, 69.4% higher than the US average of 10.07 cents/kWh for all states other than California. California’s commercial prices remained the 3rd highest in the nation.
  2.   California average Industrial Price for the 12 months ended March 2020 was 13.67 cents/kWh, 113.6% higher than the US average of 6.40 cents/kWh for all states other than California. California’s industrial prices remained the 5th highest in the nation.

California Natural Gas Prices in March

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


Chart of California energy costs