Bright lights inside a home at night

Americans commonly spend three or four percent of their income on energy bills. But in many low-income communities, that number is higher.

Smith: “In Atlanta, for example, you have some people paying over eleven percent of their income on utility bills, and if you add that to the transportation costs, housing costs, food costs – nothing is left over in many of these communities.”

Nathaniel Smith is with the Partnership for Southern Equity, a nonprofit in Atlanta. He says it’s not only a matter of lower incomes, but higher utility bills:

Smith: “If you live in a substandard home that is not weatherized, that is not energy efficient, that was constructed poorly or is older, then your energy burden will be more.”

And energy-saving solutions are often out of reach.

Smith: “Many of those communities can’t afford to weatherize their home, they can’t afford sometimes to pay for more expensive lightbulbs.”

So he urges governments and utilities to invest in energy programs for low-income people.

Smith: “Justice is a key pillar I believe in working to realize a more resilient and sustainable society.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo credit: Tim Sackton / Flickr

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...