Texas Energy Poverty Profiles Project
Project Directors: Heath J. Prince and Dana Harmon
Date: April 2019
Publication Type: Policy Research Project Report, 204 pp.
Abstract: Energy poverty describes a condition faced by many Americans in which the personal cost of energy consumption needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle creates a significant economic hardship. The Texas State Data Center estimates that low-income households spend on average 12.5% of their income on home energy costs, versus the 4.0% spent by higher income households, and energy burdens grow more acute with more severe poverty – up to 31%.
By this definition, nearly 1 in 4 low and moderate-income (LMI) Texans experience energy poverty. Texas is home to 9.4 million LMI energy customers, and high energy burdens lead to difficult tradeoffs of essential needs – forcing families to choose between paying utility bills, paying rent or mortgage, and putting food on the table.
In 2017, the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute (TEPRI) published Energy Poverty Research Landscape Analysis, which revealed that reinventing energy consumer engagement is the most glaring and broadly agreed upon opportunity to improve energy service to LMI consumers. Most studies, however, convey that not enough is known about how the power sector should effectively engage LMI consumers, from needs assessment to program design – this is a gap that this research aims to address.
This study, the Texas Low-Income Profile Project, provides a detailed understanding of Texas LMI residents and their relationships to energy. We address this issue in a robust manner with the goal of helping frame future strategic decision-making processes for stakeholders in Texas – utilities, regulators, policy makers, non-profits, and service providers.
Funding for this project was generously provided by the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute, an organization dedicated to inspiring lasting energy solutions for low-income communities.