Why Are New England’s Electricity Prices So Expensive?

The answer boils down to our over-dependence on fossil fuels

Image: a person wearing mittens turns on a radiator.

Our over-reliance on fossil fuels damages the climate and our wallets. Photo: Shutterstock.

Everyone knows the recent sticker shock of seeing their electricity bill, especially after a heat wave or a cold snap. During our worst temperature dips and jumps, electricity demand surges – and along with it, electricity prices. These are drastic changes – and they put immense pressure on New England families. Worse, these price increases and price spikes force some families to choose between keeping the lights on and temperatures comfortable or putting food on the table. No one should have to make that choice.  

So why are New England electricity prices so expensive and so volatile? Let’s dig into the main causes and what we can do to stave off such price increases and spikes in the future. 

Fossil Fuels Make New England’s Electricity Prices Expensive 

Our region relies heavily on burning imported fossil fuels like natural gas to generate electricity. These fuels are costly – and their prices are rising steadily. As a result, New Englanders pay some of the highest electricity prices in the country. 

Unfortunately, the price volatility of fossil fuels makes these cost increases even worse. Because of New England’s dependence on imported liquified natural gas, we must contend with drastically inflated prices when international crises affect supply lines. For example, when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, energy prices rose by up to 20% worldwide for five months. Until the region breaks free from fossil fuels, we will always be at risk from geopolitical catastrophes beyond our control.   

State policies also influence how expensive electricity is. In New Hampshire, for example, the state’s lack of strong clean energy requirements for its utilities significantly affects local electricity rates by forcing the state to depend on expensive, fossil fuel-generated electricity. Vermont, on the other hand, relies far less on fossil fuel–generated electricity. That has helped insulate families and businesses from the more drastic price spikes in other New England states.   

Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Can Solve New England’s High Electricity Prices  

Keeping our lights on and houses comfortable should be affordable and reliable. No family should choose between affording the necessities, powering their homes, or damaging the climate and their wallets. We deserve better – we deserve clean energy.  
Generating electricity from clean energy, like solar and wind, is much cheaper for a few reasons. For one, we can harness the power of the sun and wind right here in New England and bring it straight to our homes and businesses – a far shorter trip than importing fossil fuels from outside the region. Clean energy like wind power also locks in prices for decades at a time, which means no fluctuations because of extreme weather. That energy can be stored for use during periods of higher demand, and the length of time that energy can be stored is increasing due to advancements in storage technology. 

Robust energy efficiency programs are also critical. Reducing the demand for energy through weatherization, better appliances, and more is yet another way families can cut down on their electricity bills, and the region can use less electricity overall.  

To Avoid More Price Spikes, New England Must Invest in Clean Energy Now  

We need solutions that can be implemented across the region and benefit all families. That’s why our state governments must spearhead developing more clean energy.   

We are on the right track, with nearly every state having a climate law requiring deep cuts in climate-damaging emissions. But now we need to implement these laws. And we need to do so in a way that ramps up our energy transition with real clean energy, not greenwashed fuels like so-called “renewable” natural gas or biofuels that are just code for business as usual by fossil fuel companies.   

To achieve that, state agencies must actively work to bring new renewable electricity generation online. They can do so by providing financial incentives to utilities that get a certain percentage of their total energy supply from clean resources. State governments also must strengthen energy efficiency programs by making their goals more ambitious and ensuring their benefits are accessible to low- and moderate-income families. Our regional electric grid operator, ISO-New England, must continue to reform the way it makes decisions about energy so that solar and wind (which are cheaper than fossil fuels) can reflect that reality and can tap into our grid. CLF is pushing for these moves to ensure New England can use more clean energy and keep the lights on and homes cool or warm every season, every year.  

These are long-term solutions, yes. But adopting clean energy today means more affordable, price-stable electricity and a livable climate. It’s past time to get off fossil fuels. 

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.