The current conversation on equality and anti-racism may not seem like an environmental conversation but there is a strong connection between the fight against climate change and the movement against racism. Historically, BIPOC communities have disproportionately been subject to harms of pollution and faced barriers to accessing the benefits of clean energy.
At Nexamp, we believe more equality can come from more accessibility to clean energy. Here are some of the reasons why expanding renewable and energy efficiency programs to all communities remains a top priority for Nexamp and the green energy space.
Energy costs are even more burdensome to low-income households
A recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and Energy Efficiency for All (EEFA) showed that the excess energy burdens that lower-income families face are directly associated to the inefficiency of their homes and their older appliances. In fact, low-income household energy burdens are more than three times higher than the amount the rest of the population.
This leads to even worse outcomes than a high utility bill. As low-income families put more of their money towards their utility bills, they are often faced with decisions on which necessities to spend on. A survey done by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated that about one in five households reported reducing basic necessities like food and medicine to pay a utility bill, while 14% reported a disconnection notice from their energy service. Seasonal variations in energy usage can make the challenge for low-income families even worse in months with extreme temperatures.
Energy efficiency programs for low-income communities
While there are numerous bill assistance programs that can help address high energy bills immediately, energy efficiency programs are constructed to be a more stable solution. Energy efficiency programs identify opportunities for households to use less electricity and save more money. These programs are a win-win for households and for the environment.
Many states across the country are developing energy programs that help address low-income families’ needs. Weatherization assistance programs are the most common type. Typically, these programs focus on improving a buildings insulation, air filtration, sealing and repairing ducts and repairing heating and cooling systems. Weatherization programs help save participating households an average of $283 annually in energy costs.
Community solar for low-income communities
As the nation’s energy sector continues to implement more renewable energy projects to the grid, solar developers and policy makers need to ensure green energy equality for all. Every community should have access to renewable energy technologies and the benefits that come with it. Solar is now one of the cheapest forms of energy out there. There has been a dramatic decline in the cost of solar technology that now triumphs energy generated by fossil fuels.
However, low to moderate income households face several barriers to rooftop solar. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy, approximately 50% of homes can’t support rooftop solar panels. Having solar panels installed on your roof is a great option if you own a home, have a good credit score, and live in a state with strong solar incentives that allow you to reap the benefits of rooftop solar. The problem is, these obstacles inhibit over half of the country from getting access to clean locally sourced energy. That’s where community solar comes in.
Community solar farms puts clean energy in the hands of those who can’t participate in rooftop solar, like low-income households. At Nexamp, our community solar program is unique in that it doesn’t require a credit check to enroll or any upfront cost, and there is no fee to cancel. Homeowners, renters, small businesses, non-profits and others are eligible to participate in the community solar program. Our commitment to accessibility also extends to the projects we build. Nexamp currently operates or is developing solar farms with reserved capacity strictly for low-income customers in New York, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey.
At Nexamp, we believe that it’s essential for all groups of people to have the same access to clean energy in order to achieve total environmental justice. And we’re ready to put in the hard work to make this happen.