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chart of average household expenditure

Source: 2009 EIA Residential Energy Survey (based on calendar year)

Your own heating bills may give you a clue that Massachusetts total household energy costs are above the U.S. average. The data indicates that the average household in Massachusetts spends $2,500 for energy each year. But, the hope is that our costs may drop closer to the U.S. average as Massachusetts continues to implement progressive clean energy policies ─ related, for example, to energy efficiency improvements designed mitigate demand.

Some background:

chart of heating and cooling degree days

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Massachusetts households use 22 percent more energy than the U.S. average, still slightly less than the six state New England region average. Not surprisingly, the region’s higher than average energy use is driven primarily by cooler weather, which pushes up heating costs. Massachusetts heating degree days (HDD, the

demand for energy to heat a building) ─ blue bars ─ are greater and cooling degree days (CDD, the energy used to cool a home or business) ─ green lines ─ are less than the rest of the country.

In contrast to much of the rest of the country, New England’s cooler weather makes space heating the largest portion of household energy use (59%), while air conditioning makes up 1 percent of usage. This might not surprise you, but the numbers are pretty stark.

chart of heating and cooling end uses

Heating and cooling end uses

Since the oil shocks in the 70’s, Massachusetts has seen a steady shift to heating with natural gas in a majority of

chart of household heating percentage by fuel type

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Dec 2012, 2007-2011, American Community Survey 5 year estimates

households from a greater reliance on heating oil in the past. Two factors have driven this: prices for heating oil havebeen especially volatile over the past decade, while the development of shale gas has helped lower natural gas prices over the same period. Also, some residents have switched fuels for environmental reasons; natural gas is cleaner, emitting less greenhouse gas. Still, in the upper New England states, heating oil remains the primary heating fuel. Lack of infrastructure (Maine, Vermont, and parts of New Hampshire) means less access to natural gas supplies. These states are looking into ways to bring in more natural gas to offer their residents a choice of heating fuel.

To help off-set higher heating costs, consumers and business can take advantage of the energy efficiency programs offered through Mass Save. Winterizing your home before the season can also help; things like caulking windows and doors to eliminate drafts, annual heating system clean and tune ups, and changing system air filters can all help make heating your home more efficient. For more information on home heating tips and assistance, please visit our Home Heating Assistance website

Written By:

Paul is a Senior Energy Analyst for DOER and manages its participation in the Save Energy Now program, a U.S. DOE effort to drive reduction in industrial energy intensity. Previously, he worked as an energy management consultant, did CHP business development, and worked for the Commonwealth's Operational Services Division's energy procurement team. Paul graduated from Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. He is active in Association of Energy Engineers, Town of Dartmouth Alternative Energy Committee and the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.

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