Minnesota among top 5 states for highest energy bills

This is not a list you want to rank high on. This headline caught my eye last week:

Energy costs: These are the states paying the most, least

So, I clicked on the clickbait. And sure enough, Minnesota ranked #5 on the list for highest energy bills, according to a study done by WalletHub.

Ranking ahead of Minnesota were Wyoming, North Dakota, Iowa and Montana. What do these states have in common? They are thinly-populated, cold-weather states.

In terms of low population density, Wyoming ranks #2, Montana #3, North Dakota #4, and Iowa #15. Minnesota ranks #21. So, what gives?

Minnesota has the dual misfortune of being a cold-climate state (high energy demand) and a relatively high energy price state.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in terms of total energy consumption per capita, North Dakota ranks #3 overall, Wyoming #4, Iowa #5, Montana #12, and Minnesota a less-impressive #19. ranking below the national average.

It’s not just the cold either. Alaska, obviously, ranks as America’s coldest state, but comes in at only #8 in energy costs, according to WalletHub. Idaho ranks #6 for cold (immediately behind Minnesota) but ranks only 27th (below average) for energy costs. Maine ranks 7th for cold, but only 19th for energy costs.

According to the WalletHub study cited above, published on July 1, Wyoming ranks worst on motor fuel consumption (long driving distances) and home heating oil (cold winters). Likewise, results for Montana, North Dakota, and Iowa are dinged by high heating oil costs.

Minnesota has high heating oil costs, but also relatively high natural gas costs.

“Clean energy” advocates usually emphasize the size of the energy bill over the rate of the energy price consumers pay. And it’s true that Minnesota ranks relatively low on the size of their electric bills (#41, with Wyoming ranking even lower at #45).

That’s mostly an artifact that most Minnesota households (like those in Wyoming) heat with natural gas, propane, and fuel oil, rather than electricity.

Clean energy advocates tout “energy efficiency” as the solution. Indeed, according to another WalletHub study (from Oct. 2023), Minnesota ranks #2 in America for being most energy efficient in home heating. In this instance, being more “efficient” does not begin to make up for the sheer volume of energy required to heat homes in a Minnesota winter. It’s pure physics: to raise the temperature of a given volume of air, so many units of energy are required. Tinkering around the edges of fuel-efficiency and insulation helps, but impose costs of their own.