Energy Burden Tracking Aims to Reduce High Energy Costs on Households
Although all households pay for heating, cooling, and other energy costs, some pay significantly more than others. This disproportionate burden on low-income families, known as 'energy burden,' is a pressing issue in America. In, fact, according to DOE's Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool, the national average energy burden for low-income households is three times higher than for non-low-income households.
Here in Saint Paul, the median energy burden averaged 2.2% between 2015 and 2020. But an analysis performed in 2017 showed that the ten census tracts with the highest median energy burden range from 4.2% to 12%, with approximately 42,000 Saint Paul households carrying an energy burden of 4% or above. The Minnesota Department of Commerce defines an energy burden of 6% as high and 10% as severe. Overall, however, in the period 2015-2020 energy burden in Saint Paul appears to be declining thanks to higher incomes at the lower end of the income range.
Saint Paul has adopted a goal of lowering the energy burden so that within ten years, no Saint Paul household will spend more than 4% of household income on energy costs. Lowering the energy burden to below 4% for all Saint Paul households through energy efficiency measures would save an estimated 13.5 million kWh of electricity and 1.3 million therms of natural gas each year, resulting in an average aggregate annual cost savings of $2.4 million.
Several strategies can be adopted to lower energy burden, including making homes more energy efficient and increasing income by helping people move into living-wage jobs. Understanding energy burden and how it is distributed across neighborhoods, racial and ethnic groups, and household types can help to better target low-income energy efficiency programs in Saint Paul.
One of the best first steps homeowners can take to reduce energy bills and cut emissions is to schedule a visit from the Xcel Energy Home Energy Squad. The Home Energy Squad will evaluate each home for energy-saving improvements, provide recommendations, and supply homeowners with information about rebates from Xcel Energy. And while there, they will Install energy-saving materials such as LED lightbulbs, door and attic hatch weather stripping, programmable thermostat, and high-efficiency water fixtures.