by: Trinity Kinslow and Daniel Baker
Low-income and minority communities often face much higher energy burdens, across the United States.
“Energy Burden,” as defined by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy [ACEEE], is the percentage of gross household income spent on energy costs. On average, households spend 3% of their income on energy costs. Households that spend upwards of 6% of their gross income on energy are considered to have a high energy burden.
According to a 2020 ACEEE Report, two out of five low-income households have severe energy burdens, spending more than 10% of income on energy costs -- typically as much as 13.9% of their annual income, as documented by the U.S. Department of Energy [DOE]. In fact, the ACEEE found that 30 million households experienced high energy burdens before the pandemic.
Black, non-White Hispanic, and Native American households spend far more on energy compared to White households. These burdens stem from systemic inequality and underfunding of these communities.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, energy burdens for low-income communities have worsened, as this Nature Energy article detailed. An increasing number of households are rife with inefficient, older appliances, high-energy lighting, and ineffective insulation. Poor building conditions result in respiratory problems and high stress. High to severe energy burdens force tough decisions between paying energy bills or buying necessities.
The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy released a report stating that: “Cost-effective efficiency improvements, such as insulation and more efficient lighting and appliances, in low-income households can reduce electricity consumption by 13% to 31%.”
Reducing energy costs, which is one of the top priorities for households, creates money for other critical needs. The same goes for the business community where margins can be very thin. Saving money on energy costs could be the difference between keeping doors open for customers and shutting down. However, too many households and businesses have been locked out of energy upgrade opportunities due to a number of barriers and inequities in the energy efficiency sector.
High energy burdens can be addressed through increased funding for programs such as the Weatherization Assistance Program which “reduces energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring their health and safety,” as well as the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program which provides federal funds to “managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs.”
State and local governments, utilities, and organizations should also seek to instill more inclusive financing programs -- a topic we’ll cover in future blog posts. These adjustments would allow more families and businesses to afford energy efficient upgrades, reducing energy costs as well as their energy burden.
Gemini Energy Solutions [GES] is striving to increase education, awareness, and access to affordable energy efficiency upgrades in historically disadvantaged communities. GES specializes in energy efficiency improvements for the small commercial building sector -- buildings 25,000 square feet or less. Learn more about our innovative, affordable energy audit system and begin lowering your energy costs today!
About the author: Trinity Kinslow
Trinity is a young woman pursing a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Media Studies at Southern University and Agriculture and Mechanical College at Baton Rouge.
She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ an organization of African American journalists, students, and media professionals. Founded in 1975 in Washington, D.C., by forty-four journalists, the NABJ's mission is to increase, throughout the world, the number of responsible and ethical African American journalists. She is also a proud member of her college’s Honor Students Association. Collaborating with Daniel Baker, this is Trinity’s first entry in Gemini Energy’s Solutions blog: EnLIGHTen.
About the author: Daniel Baker
Ten years of journalism and digital communications experience.
Daniel has more than a decade of professional experience in journalism and digital communications, sharing stories that matter to him. He earned his bachelors of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Maryland (go Terps!) an obtained his Master of Public Administration in Environmental Policy and Management at the University of Colorado Denver in May 2022.
Daniel assisted in the first-ever launch of a new channel on a major radio network. By starting two podcasts from scratch, he helped launch the flagship chat show on a national digital TV network. Daniel also came up with pitches, wrote both short and long pieces, and edited them for a digital magazine. He managed marketing and communications for a successful outdoor recreation company that significantly relies on the environment for many years. It's safe to say that Daniel has accumulated a tremendous amount of experience operating under pressure and in a quick-paced setting. He is a skilled multi-tasker and project manager due to his experience producing national broadcasts and managing seven tasks at once! It would be difficult to find someone who is more adept at managing several tasks at once. His success has been largely attributed to his attention to detail. Each show is the result of hours of research.
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