One of our biggest monthly expenses here in Hilo is electric. Everything in our rental house is electric, as are most houses in Hilo, since gas is not widely available. The cost of electric is higher than the mainland because electricity is generated from diesel shipped long distances, not from locally produced natural gas or coal.
When we lived in an apartment in Cupertino last year, we used approximately 464 Kilowatt hours of electricity each month. Our usage was low due to gas appliances and heat. California’s PG&E electric charges increase based on usage; the first 378 Kilowatt hours (KWH) were 11 cents in 2007, the next charge level was 13 cents and so forth. Our monthly cost for electric in Cupertino was around $55 (that didn’t include our $40 monthly gas charge).
Here in all-electric Hilo, though we don’t have AC or heat, our stove, hot water heater, and washer/dryer are electric, and we run fans continuously, as well as computers and lights. Having all electric appliances has almost doubled our monthly usage to 895 Kilowatt hours. That in combination with HELCO's (Hawaii Electric Light Co.) 39 cent per Kilowatt hour has made our $350 electric bill one of our highest monthly bills. We assume the rising costs of oil will swiftly raise that rate to even higher levels.
Reducing our Kilowatt hours per month is the latest focus of our monthly expense downsizing effort. Our approach is to determine the kilowatt usage of each electrical device to identify the worst offenders and then determine if there is a way to switch them out or switch them off. Stay tuned.