Energy burden is measured as the percentage of household income that is spent on energy bills. Alabama residents are subject to some of the highest monthly electricity bills in the country, and many rural Alabamians spend a significant portion of their income on energy bills. Families facing a high energy burden not only experience increased economic hardship and difficulty moving out of poverty, but are at greater risk for respiratory, cardiovascular, and stress-related health issues.
Alabama’s high energy burden compared to other states (source: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2018)
Utility providers can reduce the energy burden of customers or member-owners with decisions they make about things like rates or efficiency programs. Like many other issues, energy burden is not equal across all demographics.
High energy burden does not have to be the norm. We encourage individuals, utilities and cooperatives to seek energy efficiency solutions and equitable rate structures that not only keep energy burden disparities in mind but also seek to decrease that burden at its root causes. Programs such as Pay As You Save (PAYS), which we included in our scorecard, have the goal of reducing energy burden in a way that is accessible to everyone, through homeowner upgrades funded using on-bill tariffs and a co-op partnership program. Home weatherization and low-income home retrofits are also ways of directly lowering energy burden through increased efficiency.