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Power distribution

Bringing energy costs into community-wide balance

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Written by: Alexa Stone

Electric bill

In recent  years, 33% of U.S. households have confronted energy insecurity. As their energy bills accumulated, over 25 million families have had to cut back on food and medicine purchases.[1]

But why should energy costs have greater impact on low-income households? Among the possible reasons, they pay a greater portion of their earnings for utility costs. Also, when those households cannot afford to participate in solar and other incentive programs, their per-kilowatt cost is more that paid by higher-income consumers.[2]

Confronting the challenge

As energy cost inequity is brought into balance, energy insecurity will decrease. Well-planned action, guided by current knowledge can mitigate both social maladies. Today, states and communities are setting relevant goals and taking actions like these:[3]

  • Acquiring timely, accurate data on energy use in disadvantaged communities.
  • Learning where incentive programs have shifted costs onto households. The cost of a required upgrade may leave low-income families ineligible.
  • Identifying neighborhoods where homes are likely to have inadequate insulation or rely on less-efficient appliances, heating, and air-conditioning systems.
  • Funding incentives that focus on upgrades needed in older homes.
  • Separately funding any incentives that favor large, higher income properties.

Necessary knowledge!

Recent research has compared the energy use intensity of populations with varied demographics. Significant differences were found when these questions were asked and analyzed:[4]


  • Who benefits from clean energy?
  • Who bears a disproportionate energy burden?
  • How are customers using electricity?
  • Which customers experience high energy bills?
  • Who is benefiting from efficiency programs?
  • Where (and how many) heat-related deaths occur?

[1] – The U.S. Energy Information Agency
[2] – The poor pay more for energy — The US can correct the imbalance
[3] – Energy equity depends on data and experts say there isnt enough of it
[4] – Institute of Physics — High energy burden and low-income energy affordability: conclusions from a literature review