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Energy efficiency and energy justice for U.S. low-income households: An analysis of multifaceted challenges and potential

Xu, Xiaojing, Chen, Chien-fei
Energy policy 2019 v.128 pp. 763-774
affordability, data collection, electrical equipment, energy efficiency, energy poverty, issues and policy, low income households, temperature, United States
Energy poverty intertwines with the issues of energy inequality and energy justice, presenting a particular challenge for low-income households (LIHs). This study explores energy justice in the U.S. through the lens of several interconnected questions: Do energy assistance programs have adequate participation rates? How accessible are energy efficiency (EE) appliances? Are there different energy practices across income groups? How does time schedule of energy practices differ across income groups, and how is it connected to energy demand flexibility? Based on two representative data sets, this study finds that affordability and accessibility remain serious problems for LIHs. LIHs have lower participation rates in many EE programs and own fewer EE appliances and smart grid technologies. Additionally, thermostat control strategies are different across income levels. LIHs tend to set one fixed temperature, even when they own a programmable thermostat, which is less energy efficient. LIHs engage in more energy practices throughout the daytime than their counterparts and show the least pronounced morning and evening peaks, indicating a relatively inflexible schedule and barriers to accepting demand response programs. This study concludes with policy implications for making energy more affordable, accessible, flexible, and better for the environment, while being fair to those often underserved.