In Oregon, for example, electric rates fell almost 1.5 percent in January and less than 1 percent in February, though some companies like Portland General Electric did raise rates modestly. Even so, rates at that utility remain well below the national average. The utility, the largest in the state, gets about 20 percent of its electricity from hydroelectric dams, 13 percent from wind turbines and 2 percent from solar panels.
The utility has also recently installed software to improve its ability to incorporate energy from sources like rooftop solar panels and batteries on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood and business-by-business basis. This gives the company more control and flexibility.
Many electric grid operators and utilities have not invested in such tools and cannot monitor and control small energy systems to choose — the lowest-cost renewables over the course of the day, taking into account whether the sun is shining and wind is blowing.
“We have been focused on renewable energy for over a decade, leveraging technologies to allow us to integrate ever-increasing amounts of renewables at the lowest cost for customers,” Maria M. Pope, the chief executive of Portland General, said in an interview.
In much of the United States, utilities are fighting the growth of rooftop solar. Regulators in California have proposed greatly reducing incentives for residential solar systems, though the measure has stalled because of opposition from the solar industry and homeowners. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently vetoed a bill backed by utilities that would have effectively gutted incentives for rooftop panels.
Still, utility executives said they were cognizant that they couldn’t just keep raising rates, especially as more people used the grid to power electric cars and heat pumps.
Overall, the greater reliance on the electric grid will reduce costs, said Richard McMahon, senior vice president energy supply and finance at the Edison Electric Institute, a utility industry group. Electric cars and heat pumps, for example, will require less maintenance, do away with fill-ups at gas pumps and reduce heating bills.