The Knoxville News Sentinel published this letter to the editor from Louise Gorenflo on February 27, 2014.
Last quarter the record setting cold wave caused TVA’s top five energy days. The call centers of Local power companies are scrambling to help customers with their power bill sticker shock. Local power companies are encouraging customers to get an energy efficiency audit to learn how they can prepare for the next extreme temperature event.
Most limited income households cannot access TVA’s energy efficiency programs because they cannot afford the cost of a home energy audit, nor do they have the discretionary funds to implement recommended energy efficiency measures, nor do they have the required 625 credit score to get a TVA energy efficiency loan. Moreover, a large percentage of lower income families do not own their own homes.
A 2010 Oak Ridge National Lab study found that lower income homes used nearly 20% less energy than the non-low income. Yet the low income consumed 25% more energy per square foot of heated space than the non-low income. The study found that the inefficiency of the lower income housing stock accounted for this difference.
The wealthier among us can afford to shrug-off higher power bills, but for some such bills push them into homelessness or into making such difficult choices as between having a roof over their head or getting medical care.
I urge the TVA board and president to develop with local power companies and other stakeholders energy efficiency products that target limited income homeowners and landlords. It is a difficult problem, but one that can no longer be ignored. Without strong and dynamic leadership from the highest levels of TVA, lower income householders will bear the harshest burden of the extreme temperatures of climate change.