South Carolina residents spent more on electric bills per household than any other state, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The study, released this week, found residential customers in the Palmetto State shelled out an average of $1,735 for electricity during 2016, which is about $400 more than the average U.S. customer.
The main reason for those higher bills? Usage, not rates, in this hot weather climate.
"In South Carolina, we are paying for electricity to both cool and heat homes. In other parts of the country, that's just not the case," said Trish Jerman, manager of energy programs at the S.C. Energy Office.
Part of the cost is geography: In the South, a reported 64 percent of homes primarily heat their homes with electricity in the winter. That's compared to 34 percent of homes in Western states, 22 percent in the Midwest and 16 percent in the Northeast.
"There are a whole host of other reasons, including the age of our housing stock in the South," Jerman said. "The South tends to have a much higher percentage of people living in manufactured housing, and manufactured housing tends to have electric heating and cooling systems."
When it ccomes to overall electricity usage, South Carolina has the sixth highest usage per customer. The five states with higher usage rates per customer also are in the South: Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.
Though an average $146.09 monthly electric bill is high compared to other states, the average price per kilowatt-hour is where South Carolina gets a break.
Hawaii charges the highest residential electricity prices in the United States, averaging 27.5 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2016 — more than twice the national average.
Meanwhile, South Carolina charges its customers on average 12.65 cents per kilowatt-hour.
"South Carolina could get an undeserved black eye when people look at this data," Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said. "It needs to be put in the proper context."
Gore said the electric utility has been trying to encourage its customers to reduce energy use in two ways: By giving rebates to customers who make energy efficient improvements to their homes and by sharing tips on how to reduce energy use overall.
At the S.C. Energy Office, Jerman said there was once a push to get state lawmakers to adopt tax credits that would encourage customers to make energy efficient choices, such as updating appliances and other home improvements.
"But those efforts have fizzled out," Jerman said. "I do hope that these numbers will make everyone stop and consider their energy use, even if it's just by remembering to turn off the lights."