Austin Energy hired a consultant to help determine how its rates compare to those of other utilities in preparation for its plan to substantially raise electricity rates in 2012. The work is ongoing, but an eye-opening statistic has already emerged. Estimates indicate that the average US household’s energy costs are equal to 7% of household income, but the study shows that on average, the poorest 5 percent of Travis County households spend about 45% of their incomes on electricity.
That is a staggering statistic and points out the need to provide more energy efficiency funding for low-income families. The short and long term benefits are economic relief and cost-effective home improvements. While assistance relieves pressure on individual households, the benefits also ripple into the community. With less money spent on energy, more money is available for other goods and services. If this money is spent locally, Austin captures this revenue, with further benefits rippling out from there.
Keep in mind, most low-income households are renters. There should be incentives put in place to encourage landlords to increase the energy efficiency of their properties. And don’t forget, there are environmental benefits to reducing our energy usage. This seems like a win win for our city.