Urban Low-Income Electric Utility Programs

Energy Bills

Did You Know That Most Metropolitan Areas Have A Low-Income Electric Utility Program?  

As households ramp up air conditioners to stay cool this summer, many will find themselves with higher energy bills. Paying these bills will be easier for some than for others. Low-income households, who spend average three times more of their income on energy bills than other households, will undoubtedly find it more difficult to adjust to higher bills in both the summer and winter months.
Many households can address high energy burdens by taking advantage of energy efficiency programs run by their utilities. These programs provide multiple benefits beyond energy and bill savings, such as fewer shut offs, healthier homes, less outdoor pollution, and more local jobs. 

To better understand the scope and reach of low-income energy efficiency programs, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) completed a new baseline assessment of the electric and natural gas programs that specifically target low-income households in 51 largest US cities. The assessment complements previous ACEEE research that explored best practice elements for low-income utility programs. Information collected pertained to 2015.  

Following are some of the high level summary points of the baseline study: 

  • 49 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) were served by a low-income electric utility program and 31 were served by a low-income natural gas efficiency program. In total, 13 MSAs had an electric and natural gas utility partner by providing dual fuel low-income programs.
  • The average spending and savings for electric utility low-income programs was $8,226,865 and 6,819 MWh, and $1,538 and 1,377 kWh per low-income program participant.
  • For natural gas utilities, total spending and savings for utility low-income programs averaged $7,574,899 and 600,715 therms, and $2,020 spent and 138 therms saved per low-income program participant. 
  • Most low-income programs do not target specific households, but those that do tend to focus on high energy users and elderly households. To streamline program enrollment to reduce administrative costs, many utilities use income-eligibility criteria from federal, state, and other utility programs.
  • More research is needed to determine what elements of programs and policies lead to high energy savings 


Read the full report here

About ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit aceee.org.