3 New Tools for Advancing Energy Affordability in Low Income Communities
DOE's CELICA is facilitating the spread of energy efficiency and renewable technologies to low income communities across the country.
Evan Kaplan

Better Buildings’ Clean Energy for Low Income Communities Accelerator (CELICA) is breaking down barriers that low income communities face for implementing energy efficient and renewable energy technologies.

Low income households carry a disproportionate energy burden -- the share of annual household income that is used to pay annual energy bills. According to the U.S. Census, the average energy burden for low income households is 8.2%—three times as high as for non-low-income households. In fact, 42% of U.S. households, which is approximately 49 million, are low income. Many burn expensive heating fuels in older inefficient homes, leading to above-average energy expenses.

3 New Tools for Advancing Energy Affordability in Low Income Communities

To lower energy burden and jumpstart planning for energy programs, CELICA is developing a framework and toolkit for state and local governments, utilities, and other program implementers interested in developing low income energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

Many of these low income program planning tools were developed based on partners’ planning efforts and self-identified needs and gaps. For example, Connecticut Green Bank, a CELICA partner, was an original collaborator in developing the Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) tool. They continue to utilize the data tool to better understand energy burden and target its investments in low income communities. This data will help Connecticut meet its goal of weatherizing 80% of its homes by 2030. Moreover, the Program Funding Catalog was inspired by Tennessee’s and New York’s efforts to catalog federal funding opportunities and resource programs for state energy savings.

Consult these tool descriptions for more information:

Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool Provides interactive state, county, and city level worksheets with graphs and data including number of households at different income levels and numbers of homeowners versus renters. It breaks down fuel type, building type, construction year, average monthly energy expenditures, and energy burden.

Baseline Assessment Guide  A series of questions to identify needs and gaps in energy efficiency, renewables, or other energy assistance programs for low income communities.

Program Funding Catalog A list of state and federal resources that can be utilized to serve the energy needs of low income communities.

During its two-year term, CELICA aims to lower energy bills in low income communities through a voluntary partnership with state and local governments to demonstrate a wide range of energy efficiency and distributed renewable energy solutions. To date, 37 CELICA partners represent state and local governments, nonprofits, utilities, and housing authorities.

In its first year, CELICA focused on the development and implementation of partners’ action plans. Currently, CELICA addresses new priorities. Its peer exchange groups focus on common program barriers through facilitated dialogue with national partners, and it is developing individual barrier resolution plans with each partner. Also, it launched a partner-only web portal to facilitate peer-to-peer exchange and identify peer mentoring opportunities. Finally, CELICA is engaging national partners as subject matter experts for local partners, and documenting a range of promising practices related to stakeholder engagement and program development.

To learn more about CELICA’s first year activities, read the accelerator’s Year 1 Review.

To learn more about the LEAD tool specifically, join our webinar on February 8, 3-4:30pm Eastern Standard Time. Click here to register.