Listen up, 2020 candidates: Energy affordability is a major problem

(ACEEE blog, 9 Sep 2019) As 2020 candidates craft their campaign platforms, new data show that energy affordability is a major problem in the United States. In fact, about one-fourth of all Americans and more than two-thirds of low-income households live with a high energy burden.

Energy burdens—the share of income spent on energy bills—can have serious impacts. Households with high burdens (those spending more than 6% of annual household income on energy bills) are often linked with respiratory health problems, increased stress, utility disconnections, and the perpetuation of poverty.

ACEEE analyzed newly available data to provide a national snapshot of energy affordability. According to the US Census’s 2017 American Housing Survey data (using the same methodology as our 2018 energy burden report), we find the following groups experience high energy burdens nationally:

  • 67% of low-income households (200% of federal poverty level)
  • 36% of African American households
  • 34% of elderly households (age 65+)
  • 29% of renting households
  • 27% of Latinx households
  • 24% of all US households  

Other households fare better. By comparison, 22.5% of white households, 21% of non-renting households, 20% of non-elderly households, and 5% of non-low-income households experience high energy burdens. Low-income households experience high energy burdens almost three times higher than that of the average household and 13 times higher than that of households that are not low-income.

ACEEE’s new policy brief on energy affordability includes information about national, urban, and rural energy burdens. In 2016, ACEEE conducted a study on urban energy burdens. We found that low-income households in 48 of the largest US cities experienced energy burdens that were three times as high as households that were not low-income. The study also found that communities of color, renters, and multifamily households experienced higher burdens than the average household.

External link

ACEEE blog, 9 Sep 2019: Listen up, 2020 candidates: Energy affordability is a major problem