How Much Will You Spend to Power Your Gadgets in 2011?

These days, in developed countries like the United States, the average household has about 35 electrical appliances and the average annual cost of using these appliances is about $1,100. If you live in a state where electricity is expensive*, that annual price tag goes up to about $1,600 a year. In five years, you’ll pay somewhere between $1300 and $1900 a year to use your fleet of devices, and that’s only if you don’t buy anything new to plug in between now and then, including a car.

Not likely. Analysts say the electrical appliances market is still growing like gangbusters. Baby boomers are moving to the South and Southwest where houses are big and air conditioning use is high. Demand for electric cars is high and is expected to present a significant new draw on the grid nation-wide. All good for the economy, right? There are just a few problems. For one, in the U.S., grid power is fired primarily by dirty fossil fuelslike coal and natural gas, so any increased pull on the grid means more CO2 and particulate matter in the air**. The other is that utility companies are raising their prices, on average, by six percent every year, so just because that Nissan Leaf costs less than filling up your tank today doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way. You can be sure that utility companies will be keeping close tabs on electric vehicle adoption, which means the plug may someday be just as pricey as the pump. (Ironically, these rate hikes are sometimes related to costly new clean energy ventures like the controversial Cape Wind project in Massachusetts.)

The question, then, is this: as the average houshold’s energy needs increase, will people be willing to pay a higher and higher percentage of their income to utility companies every year? Or, as the cost of home-based solar and wind power come down, will things reach a tipping point where homeowners start to see their own roofs and yards as a way to reduce or even eliminate this growing annual spend?

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