Racism Is Adding to the Burden of Energy Bills, Report Finds


Households of color are far more likely to spend a disproportionately high portion of their income on energy bills. Wavebreakmedia / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Low-income households and households of color are far more likely to spend a disproportionately high portion of their income on energy bills, according to a new report from The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The report comes as tens of millions of American households face possible utility shutoffs by the end of this month as protections enacted in the wake of the pandemic expire. Twenty-five percent of American households, but a full two-thirds of low income households are described as having a “high energy burden,” spending double the national average on energy bills as a portion of their income. Compared to white households, Black households spend 43% more of their income on energy costs, Hispanic households spend 20% more; and Native American households spend 45% more.

Racist policies like redlining have made households of color more likely to live in inefficient housing with old, energy-guzzling appliances and HVAC systems, Earther reported. Communities of color have been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and “between having to stay at home to be to protect yourself and to remain socially distant, along with increased heat from the summertime weather … we found customers will see an increased energy bill of up to per month,” Joseph Daniel, a senior energy analyst with the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who did not work on the report, told Earther.

As reported by USA Today, Ariel Drehobl, a senior research associate at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the lead author on the report, described a “combination of factors” contributing to the crisis:

“We see that low-income communities of color and other economically disadvantaged communities often have similar characteristics, such as living in communities that have experienced racial segregation, high unemployment, high poverty rates and poor housing conditions, which are all due in part to systemic policies.”

For a deeper dive:

SmartCities Dive, Earther, U.S. News & World Report, Grist

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