Fairness has always been one of the three core principles AMP believes Michigan’s energy policy should reflect.
Unfortunately, vast energy inequities that have a disproportionately larger impact on low-income and minority communities continue to persist. It is critical to keep these inequities in mind as we consider whether energy policies passed in Lansing truly benefit all communities and all consumers equitably.
Low-Income Homes Face a Disproportionately Larger Cost Burden
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science Found that low-income households use significantly more electricity per square foot in their homes then more affluent ones, meaning “households that can least afford it end up spending more on utilities.”
According to the study, homes in low-income communities “averaged 25 to 60 percent more energy use per square foot than higher income neighborhoods.” During winter and summer, when energy use increases across-the-board, those discrepancies become even greater. This puts a disproportionate burden on some of our most vulnerable communities, here in Michigan and nationwide.
Part of the problem leading to disproportionately higher energy costs for low-income families is that many “live in under insulated housing with older appliances and heating and cooling equipment that waste a lot of energy.” Additionally, families in low-income and minority communities can also have trouble accessing capital or credit to invest in energy-efficiency upgrades.
Energy Policy Plays a Role in Ensuring Equity
Overcoming some of these barriers and addressing energy inequities requires thoughtful policy solutions that benefit and promote fairness for all communities. Particularly with regard to expanding access to clean and renewable energy, lawmakers must ensure that the decisions they make do not favor more affluent household and communities over low-income ones.
Another recent study by researchers at UCLA exposed a serious problem with California’s approach to renewable energy, especially when it comes to private solar. By subsidizing private solar development, which is predominantly found in wealthier neighborhoods, California’s energy policy disproportionately benefits wealthier homes and disadvantages lower-income communities that would benefit most from affordable clean energy technologies.
Prioritizing a house-by-house approach to advancing renewable energy like solar power only benefits those who own their own homes and can afford to install a private solar array on their rooftop, leaving low-income Michiganders behind. That is why AMP believes Michigan lawmakers should support policies that grow renewable energy community-by-community through universal renewable projects that increase access to affordable, clean energy for all our communities.
What Local Energy Providers are Doing to Increase Access, Affordability
As Michigan lawmakers work to address the range of energy inequities we face today, local energy providers are also working to increase accessibility to affordable, reliable, and clean energy for those who need it most.
Additionally, both local energy providers also offer ongoing assistance to help make energy more accessible and affordable for low-income Michiganders. Check out the resources below to learn more:
Why do you think it’s important to address energy inequalities for low-income communities, and what else could Michigan be doing to make energy more accessible and affordable? Share your thoughts on Facebook.