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The Importance of Delivering Energy Efficiency to Vulnerable Populations

Adams Homes

Rebate programs, on-bill financing, and other mechanisms have long been used by utilities in efforts to encourage increased energy efficiency in the homes of their customers. The win-win paradigm has been thinking that the cost to utilities to engage in these programs will manage the overall load they need to supply power for in a more affordable way than continuing to build out new sources of generation and transmission, while customers of course benefit from having their energy bills drop and getting retrofits at least partially subsidized. Not to mention those direct energy and financial benefits, customers and utilities both win in these scenarios when customers feel appreciative and engaged by their power providers. 

Among the myriad of these types of energy efficiency programs delivered across utility companies and their customers, a key focus has long been in making sure these programs give special focus to low income and other vulnerable populations. The idea is these types of customers can benefit the most from energy efficiency upgrades but are traditionally less able or willing to install them on their own. But when utilities increase equity to the vulnerable populations, that win-win paradigm only strengthens.

A few stories of notes came out in the past week or so on specific utility energy efficiency programs aiding vulnerable populations...


Elderly, low income to benefit from $1.9M energy efficiency grant

In Alabama, Governor Ivey recently awarded nearly $2 million to help homeowners weatherize their home, efforts that can drastically reduce energy bills by minimizing wasted energy escaping through the building envelope. This program specifically gives priority with disabilities, the elderly, and low-income families with children:

"Elderly and disabled Alabama residents who are living on limited incomes can struggle to pay higher utility bills in the warmer months," Ivey said. "These grants will go toward lowering the energy bills for many of them by making upgrades to keep their houses cool during the summer months."

Elderly, low income to benefit from $1.9M energy efficiency grant

 Proposal to Cut Efficiency Budgets Makes No Sense

Taking this topic to the federal level, this blog post from NRDC takes the Trump Department of Energy to task for the proposed budget that contains enormous cuts for the federal energy efficiency and clean energy programs, programs the author notes "affect the lives of and energy bills of all Americans."

In particular, these proposed budget cuts would "fully eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program that helps low-income families lower their bills and make their homes more comfortable."


The Green Climate Fund allocates $25 million to support FAO climate resilience project in Paraguay

While this story is not directly in the energy efficiency of vulnerable homes, it mirrors the efforts and shows another example of how vulnerable populations can be prioritized and protected with regards to energy. 

"The Green Climate Fund (GCF), the main global fund to finance actions to address climate change, will allocate more than $25 million to a FAO-designed project in Paraguay that...targets the most vulnerable households through addressing poverty, deforestation and energy access promoting a holistic landscape approach to ensure climate change resilience in target areas."

Image result for green climate fund

As the saying goes, a lot can be said about a society by looking at how they treat the most vulnerable populations, and access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy (and energy efficiency) surely reflects at least a small portion of that. 

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 24, 2019 6:16 am GMT

So thoughtful of utilities to increase equity to "vulnerable populations" by offering them cheap electricity in the middle of the night, when no one else wants it. 

Maybe water utilities could offer them lead-contaminated water at a lower price too. The possibilities are endless!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 24, 2019 9:16 am GMT

Not sure what this comment has to do with the few stories I outlined here, Bob. Providing assistance to low-income households to weatherize and increase the efficiency of their homes, increasing access to energy in vunlerable areas of are these efforts to be looked down upon or dismissed? Where do these initiatives 'provide electricity in the middle of the night, when no one else wants it?'

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 24, 2019 3:44 pm GMT

You're right, Matt, I thought the program involved DR.

Bob needs to learn when to call it a night.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Apr 24, 2019 9:42 pm GMT

We've all been there :)

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