The recommendations put forth by ISC, Common Sparks and Energy Futures Group lay the groundwork for a more equitable, energy-efficient future.
Addressing energy efficiency is good for the overall environment and tackling the climate issues that we face today. However, in addressing energy efficiency, we also address issues at the intersection of climate equity, namely high housing and energy costs, as it directly relates to the burdens disproportionately placed on Black communities, communities of color and people with low income.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), in an effort to better understand the energy burden, energy costs and barriers that these highly-impacted residents face, conducted a study beginning in May 2021 for the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact (the Compact) using data as well as community stakeholder engagement. The result is the “Energy Efficiency Action Plan” (PDF), co-authored alongside Energy Futures Group and Common Spark Consulting, a resource for local governments to advance their energy efficiency strategies and mitigate the impacts on the communities that suffer the most due to historical discrimination.
ISC, Energy Futures Group and Common Spark used a double-pronged approach to develop the plan utilizing quantitative data and qualitative community engagement information to paint a holistic picture of residents’ lived experience combating these issues. Only qualitative engagement can truly capture the burden borne by people with energy bills three times the average in the region or who are turned away from assistance programs due to the conditions of their homes. As a result, 15 organizations, ranging from community-based organizations, to program administrators and city staff, were interviewed as part of the data-collection process to give an authentic view of the issues people in the region face.
The report, officially released in October 2022, gives actionable recommendations to the Compact to improve energy efficiency for the households most vulnerable to energy inequities in Southeast Florida. The recommendations in the report – including initiatives like creating an energy efficiency resource center to streamline and consolidate application processes for energy and home repair programs, thereby reducing a significant obstacle for households to receive the benefits they need – advocate for the necessary accessibility.
“The issues faced by distressed communities and disadvantaged households are intersectional – energy insecurity is one aspect of housing insecurity, and both factor prominently in health insecurity,” Jim Grevatt from Energy Futures Group said. “Recognition of these connections can be reflected by creating a comprehensive resource center that strives to similarly connect different program resources with the households that need them most.”