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Open With Care: That Next Power Bill Could Shock You

There are things you can scrimp on, but “you can’t turn off the air conditioner when it’s 102 degrees.”

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Illustration: Nichole Shinn for Bloomberg Businessweek

US households are about to get some unwelcome mail this summer: some of the highest power bills they’ve ever seen.

Residential electricity rates have been surging for months and are poised to climb even higher this summer on a combination of tight supplies of natural gas and coal, an unrelenting drought in the Western US, and a nationwide forecast for extreme heat. Barclays Plc calculates that monthly bills will be more than 40% higher than last year’s, and projections from the US Energy Information Administration show this year’s retail residential rates rising the most since 2008.