ORIGINAL REPORTING: New Energy Can Include Energy Equity
Bringing equity to electricity service through home, power sector and regulatory innovation; Energy burdens can be relieved house by house, in communities, or with the help of new voices in decision-making, say advocates.
Herman K. Trabish, October 27, 2022 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The demand for energy equity continues to echo louder and louder across the policymaking world.
Innovations to overcome institutional barriers to equity in electricity service are underway at all levels of the power system, advocates for vulnerable consumers said. At least 10 states now require equity to be part of regulatory decisions regarding the utility investments and rates that are guiding the energy transition, research from the Institute for Market Transformation and E9 Insights found. To be equitable, that transition must address the energy burden, or percent of incomes going to utility bills, that varies starkly with economic disparities, consumer, utility, and power system stakeholders agreed.
The mission “is to move beyond affordability and reliability to ensure all communities benefit,” New York Power Authority Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Nancy Harvey said. “We want people to get what they need to be their best selves, and we want to build and diversify future energy industry leaders.”
The objective of utility equity programs should be to relieve customers’ heavy energy burdens, but “that doesn’t magically happen,” said Chandra Farley, CEO of energy and climate justice consulting firm ReSolve. “The utility business model is ripe for transformation” toward equity and regulators “have a huge role to play because utilities don’t make these decisions on their own.”
Through more meaningful community outreach and consumer input, the energy transition can go beyond tiered rate structures and energy efficiency initiatives, advocates and utility representatives said. New voices can show how alternatives like community solar can ease energy burdens and how regulatory decision-making can be more inclusive, some added.
Energy burdens, which according to the Department of Energy average 8.6% nationally for low-income, or LI customers, must be reduced to other customers’ 3%, advocates for said. An LI customer is one near or below the federal poverty level or state or regional median incomes, according to DOE.
In response, electricity providers like the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, are developing “energy burden reduction goals and timelines,” American Public Power Association Senior Director of Member Engagement Tanya DeRivi wrote in November 2021… click here for more