March 4, 2017

The East Tennessee Energy Burden

“I was almost in disbelief,” she says, recalling her reaction at the time. “Like, how are we gonna pay it? They are gonna cut it off. With him being sick in July is when he had the heat exhaustion, and with that and the power bill being so high, how can we pay this? They are going to turn our power off, and we are going to smother in here.”
-Gerlene Wilmoth describes the helpless feeling of having high energy bills and a home in desperate need of repairs

Appalachian Voices’ AmeriCorps VISTA member Lou Murrey recently interviewed Gerlene and Ronald Wilmoth of Tazewell, Tenn., and shared the story of the financial hardship they faced after Ronald’s stroke in 2015. While there are federal programs that fund utility bill assistance and weatherization, the need in East Tennessee far exceeds the available aid. Read the rest of the Wilmoths’ story.

Energy Justice in Memphis

Despite low energy costs, families in the Southeast face particularly high energy burdens—the portion of household income spent on energy bills. Furthermore, these high energy burdens disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color. A 2016 report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that Memphis, Tenn. has the highest energy burden for it’s poor, with some people paying over 25% of their income towards energy costs. Now, the city council and non-profit partners are working to change that. Learn more about their efforts.

PAYS is Making a Difference for an Arkansas Family

After switching from a loan-based program to the more accessible Pay as You Save (PAYS) model, participation in Ouachita Electric Cooperative’s HELP PAYS program tripled. HELP PAYS helps co-op members finance energy efficiency upgrades for their homes, and the members use a portion of the energy cost savings to repay the co-op through a small charge on their electric bill. Kassy and Scotty Starr are one of the Arkansas families that have taken advantage of the new program. They were able to upgrade their home’s heating and cooling system and install insulation, among other improvements. Read about their experience.

More Efficiency for Multifamily Housing

Spending on energy efficiency programs for multifamily housing has almost tripled in the past four years! Multifamily housing often lacks investments in energy efficiency for several reasons, including a lack of incentives for landlords and unavailability of financing for tenants. A new report from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy explores this growth of multifamily energy efficiency programs across the country. Learn more!

If you live in Virginia or North Carolina and are interested in energy efficiency for multifamily housing, contact Rory McIlmoil at

New TVA Board Chair

At the February 16th Tennessee Valley Authority Board Meeting in Gatlinburg,TN, Richard Howorth was selected to replace Lynn Evans as board chair when her term ends in May 2017. Howorth joined the TVA board in 2011 and was reappointed for a second term in 2015. His current term will end in May 2018. In a press release, Evans remarked, “Our board will be seeing up to five new members in the next year, and Richard’s selection will help ensure continuity as new board members get acclimated to their policy role and learn more about the mission and work of TVA.” Read the full press release.

Support is Growing for Energy Efficiency in Yancey County

The Yancey County Commissioners just passed a resolution in support of the development of an on-bill financing program for energy efficiency upgrades by French Broad Electric Membership Co-op. See a mention of the resolution in the Yancey Common Times.

Tips and Resources

Monthly Energy Efficiency Tip!

Warmer weather is right around the corner! As you’re planning your spring cleaning, don’t forget about energy efficiency. Here are some tips to clean your way to a more efficient home:

  • Replace air-conditioning filters to improve the efficiency of the unit and the air quality of your home.
  • Clean off the dust build-up on your refrigerator's coils and other appliances to ensure proper functioning.
  • Dust off light bulbs to maximize their light output.
  • Check to see if you’re eligible for tax credits for energy efficiency improvements made in 2016. This is the last year to claim thirteen of these credits, so don’t put it off!

Do you have an energy tip to share? Please email to submit your tip!


Inclusive Financing Webinar
Mark your calendars--French Broad EMC’s annual membership meeting is Saturday, May 6.


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  4. Send a letter to your local newspapers expressing your support for home energy efficiency. Contact to get some tips.
  5. Have you already made significant energy efficiency improvements? Share your story to help others see how they can experience the same benefits. Contact to learn how.

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