St. Patrick’s Day only partially lucky for Texans

March 13, 2020   By Arthur Murray

St. Patrick’s Day only partially lucky for Texans

From an energy standpoint, St. Patrick’s Day will turn out lucky for some Texas residents – but not for all of them. Texans are paying less for gasoline and businesses are getting better breaks for electricity and natural gas than they were last March.

However, the news isn’t great across the board: Texans are paying more for residential electricity and natural gas than they were last March. And residents with electric vehicles also are having to dig deeper.

Electricity

Electricity rates have been going up in Texas over the past few months, with fallout from the wholesale price increases caused when electricity demand increased during the late summer heat wave that fried the state.

Residential electricity rates reported most recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration were 11.93 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), about 1 percent higher than March 2019.

Business owners fared much better, particularly industrial electricity users. The latest industrial electricity rates were 5.11 cents/kWh – about 58 percent lower than in March 2019. Commercial rates also are down – about 34 percent lower than last year.

Electricity Latest rate March 2019 % change
Residential 11.93 11.81 1.0
Commercial 8.04 12.22 -34.2
Industrial 5.11 12.19 -58.1

Natural gas

Texas residential natural gas users also have it worse this year. At $9.23 per thousand cubic feet, rates are nearly 12 percent higher than last year. Commercial users pay $5.56 per thousand cubic feet, about 4.5 percent higher than in 2019.

Industrial users, however, have much better rates. They pay $2.52 per thousand cubic feet – nearly 17 percent lower than last March.

Natural gas prices Latest March 2019 % change
Residential 9.23 8.26 11.7
Commercial 5.56 5.32 4.5
Industrial 2.52 3.03 -16.8

Gasoline

One place everyone’s doing better is at the gasoline pumps. Drivers of conventional vehicles are paying $2.01 cents per gallon as of March 12, according to AAA Gas Prices. That’s nearly 8 percent less than during March 2019.

Electric vehicle drivers, however, are paying about 2 percent more than last year, according to the U.S. Department Energy’s eGallon measure.

Driving Latest March 2019 % change
Gasoline (March 12, 2020) 2.01 2.18 -7.8
eGallon (March 7) 1.09 1.07 1.9

Natural gas and crude oil production

But lower gasoline costs come at a price for some Texans – those involved in the oil business. Lower crude oil prices, brought on by a number of factors including OPEC’s inability to reach an agreement with Russia on production, mean more uncertainty in an industry that employs many in the state. (Texas is the largest U.S. producer of oil and natural gas.)

Still, production is up in the Lone Star State. Crude oil production is up more than 10 percent from its levels in March 2019. Natural gas production, meanwhile, has increased 9 percent from last year.

Texas drilling Latest Mar-19 % change
Natural gas production(million cubic feet) 910,910 835981 9.0
Crude oil production (thousand barrels per day) 5,350 4857 -10.2

Electricity generation

The state, which is the country’s leading electricity generator, is producing 8.1 percent more electricity than in March 2019. Much of that increase comes from increased use of natural gas – Texas got 20 percent more electricity from that source than in March 2019.

Following are the latest totals, in thousand megawatt hours, for some of the major sources of Texas electricity, as well as the numbers from a year ago and the percentage change from March 2019.

Electricity sources Latest month (thousand megawatthours) March 2019 % change
Total generation 38,020 35,170 8.1
Coal 6,275 7,306 -14.1
Natural gas 19,762 16,455 20.1
Nuclear 3,790 3,721 1.9
Wind 7,383 6,830 8.1
Solar 365 383 -4.7

To sum up, industrial electricity and natural gas users found the greatest pot of gold this year as far as rates go. Drivers also have enjoyed savings, but even those come to some degree at the expense of the state’s oil business.

Arthur Murray directs SaveOnEnergy.com’s Learning Center, taking advantage of years of newspaper and magazine experience. His articles have appeared on Zillow.com, Business.com, Nasdaq.com, and USNews.com, among other places.