Rory McIlmoil, Energy Policy Director, 828-262-1500, email@example.com
Ann League, Tennessee Campaign Coordinator, 865-617-2451, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cat McCue, Communications Director, 434-293-6373, email@example.com
Google launched a new platform today to showcase and distribute custom, interactive maps created by governments, businesses and nonprofits from around the world, making valuable information available in compelling visual formats to the public.
Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit conservation group, is among the handful of entities invited by Google to provide one of the maps featured for the Maps Gallery launch. The map (see Main map in sidebar) shows that families in the Southeast pay a higher percentage of their income for electricity compared to the national average, and that those families are primarily concentrated in areas served by rural electric membership cooperatives.
“We’re excited to be part of Google’s new Maps Gallery and present this important information to the public in a way that makes it easier to understand the impact that electricity costs can have on families living in rural and impoverished areas,” said Rory McIlmoil, energy policy director for Appalachian Voices and author of a briefing paper the group released in conjunction with the gallery.
Another Appalachian Voices map (Figure 1) shows poverty rates in the South, and a third (Figure 2) shows the average poverty rate by utility service area. The top points of the maps and analysis, which cover Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, include:
- The average U.S. household spent 2.7% of family income on electricity and gas bills in 2012. In the Southeast, residents spent an average of 3.0% of their income on electricity costs alone.
- For low-income families, electric bills can be as high as 20% of household income.
- Southeast families served by public power utilities such as rural co-ops spent on average 8% more on electricity than those served by investor-owned utilities in 2012.
- In those co-op areas, higher electricity rates, higher electric use due to inefficient housing and lower average incomes account for the higher burden for residents.
“As the U.S. marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it’s clear we have a long way to go to truly move the region’s most disadvantaged communities forward, and electric utilities should play a key role in making that happen,” says McIlmoil.
The burden of high electricity costs reduces the ability of low-income families to pay for food, housing, education, health care and other essential needs, he says. Much of this burden is because many homes lack proper insulation, are poorly weatherized and use old, inefficient appliances, resulting in significant energy waste.
“One way that electric utilities can help is by providing cost-effective and comprehensive home energy efficiency programs known as ‘on-bill financing’ loan programs. These programs allow the homeowner to repay the loan over time with each electric bill, while also saving money immediately as a result of using less electricity,” McIlmoil says. “A small percentage of utilities in the Southeast, particularly public power utilities, currently offer this type of program; however, only one out of eight residents, at most, has access to financing for home energy efficiency.”
Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental non-profit committed to protecting the natural resources of central and southern Appalachia, focusing on reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future. Founded in 1997, we are headquartered in Boone, N.C. with offices in Charlottesville, Va.; Knoxville, Tn. and Washington, D.C.