By Rory McIlmoil
On July 18, the nonprofit organizations American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Energy Efficiency for All released a report that analyzes the energy cost burden — or the portion of gross household income spent on home energy costs (not including transportation) — for rural households across the nine major census regions of the United States.
The report found that low-income households in rural areas spend a percentage of their income on home energy costs that is almost three times greater than higher-income households across the country. Among households of all income levels, the median energy cost burden for rural households across the United States is 4.4 percent, compared to 3.3 percent nationally.
Demographic information compiled in the report shows that renters, elderly residents, non-white residents and those living in multi-family or manufactured homes are hit particularly hard.
The report shows that the problem is particularly pronounced in the East and Southeast regions of the nation. Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, works to advance energy efficiency in the region and has identified families who spend as much as 50 percent of their income on energy costs in the winter.
“It’s expensive to be poor,” Appalachian Voices’ Executive Director Tom Cormons told U.S. News and World Report. “A lot of times, folks without resources may end up facing higher monthly costs because they don’t have the resources to make the investment that’s going to save them money in the long term, such as upgrades to the house.”
In the report, the authors advocate for policies and initiatives that could help alleviate high energy costs. “Energy efficiency upgrades can lessen these energy burdens by as much as 25 percent, resulting in more than $400 in annual energy bill savings for some households,” a press release announcing the report states.
Cormons emphasized the role that Appalachia’s electricity providers could play in instituting such policies. “Utilities serving the region are way behind when it comes to making smart investments in energy efficiency,” he said. “It’s time for Appalachia to benefit not just from lower energy costs, but also the jobs and economic growth that energy efficiency investments can achieve in concert with solar development and other sustainable economic initiatives.”
Read the full report at aceee.org/research-report/u1806