In the past, some energy providers have claimed that fossil fuels are needed to keep electricity costs low for the poorest consumers. But research has shown this “cheap” energy comes at a high price for the poor and minorities that are most susceptible to the effects of pollution.
The Energy Efficiency for All published a study in 2016, which found that the vast majority of families living under 80% of the poverty line struggle to afford energy month-to-month.
We all want to save more and reduce our energy consumption at home, but doing so sometimes requires an upfront investment some people may not be able to afford. It’s a conundrum that the federal and local governments are trying to solve in an effort to bring green energy into more homes and decrease the country’s overall consumption.
Here are a few ways minorities and poor families can lower their electricity costs while using cleaner energy. According to the World Energy Forum, solar was the cheapest form of energy in 2016. Solar costs will continue to drop as more efficient ways to produce solar panels are developed.
Compare Electricity Providers for Cheaper Green Energy
Going green starts with comparing electricity providers if you live in a deregulated energy market. In states like Texas where the majority of residents live in deregulated areas, experts have found people who compare their options save the most money regardless of whether they utilize green energy services. Being able to compare options gives consumers more control and the power to get a lower rate.
During the comparisons, you can search specifically for electricity providers that offer green energy plans. These plans are powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It’s a fantastic option for anyone who wants to use clean energy but doesn’t have the monetary resources to install personal wind and solar systems.
“Renewable energy has reached a tipping point,” said Michael Drexler, head of infrastructure and investing for the WEF.
Make Use of Smart Meters
The old electric meters outside of homes are single-purpose pieces of equipment that don’t provide homeowners with much information. However, the new smart meters that are beginning to replace the old equipment can provide actionable information that helps people make better energy choices.
With the smart meter technology electricity providers are able to tell customers not only how much energy is being used in a billing cycle but also exactly what time of day peak use occurs, which devices are drawing the most electricity and more. Consumers can use this information to determine which energy efficiency improvements will provide the most bang for the buck.
Smart meters are becoming more popular. According to a survey from Energy Saving Trust, 75% of customers support using them as an energy saving solution.
Replace Your Electric Bill With a Solar Power Payment
Some electricity companies are taking initiative to help more people afford solar panel systems. It may seem counterproductive for an electric provider to encourage solar panel use, but not when they’re the ones providing the equipment.
SDG&E is just one electric provider to offer such a program in recent years. Consumers can buy solar panels through their utility company and instead of paying a monthly electric bill the customer makes a similar payment for the panels. These types of offers are rare, but they’re worth researching for those that want to use solar but don’t have the cash on hand to pay for a system.
Programs That Make Green Energy More Affordable
In addition to the steps above, consumers can also use government programs to lower the cost of green energy. There has been a big push by groups like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to bring the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy into low-income communities. They recognize the need for energy equality and are helping more Americans reduce their electricity use.
Some cities, states and utilities provide subsidy programs that make it easier for low-income individuals to pay their energy bills. The programs include discounts of up to 20% or more and free home improvements that increase efficiency and reduce energy use.
Numerous states, cities and utility companies offer rebate programs that can make energy efficient equipment more affordable. The federal government has also provided rebate programs that can make solar panel installation much more cost effective.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) it taking steps to ensure low-income housing is just as energy efficient as other new homes. The Renew300 Initiative will support the incorporation of renewable energy technologies in HUD rental housing and rentals that are a part of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).
Some states are also stepping up with initiatives of their own. For example, the California Solar Initiative (CSI) includes a segment called the New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP). It provides financial incentives and support for builders who construct energy efficient solar homes.