Residential Energy Efficiency in Moderate-Income Households.
Abstract: The passage of the Green Communities Act in 2008 established the
state of Massachusetts as one of the leaders of energy policy in the United States. As part
of the Act, the state has set strong energy efficiency goals and requires efficiency to be
the first form of meeting the state's future energy needs. To help meet this goal, energy
efficiency programs in the state have been ... read moredeveloped to offer some of the best incentives
aimed at helping residential utility customers become more energy efficient. Part of the
funding for these programs is derived from the customers themselves through the Systems
Benefit Charge (SBC). Within the residential sector SBC funding helps to provide no cost
programs to low-income households that make 60% or less of State Median Income (SMI). For
all other households that make more than 60% of SMI the Mass Save program has been
established to assist these households in achieving energy efficiency. Preventing greater
participation by all income groups have been several widely acknowledged barriers:
information/knowledge, lack of certainty of savings, preweatherization repairs, split
incentives and financial. In order to accomplish the goals of the Green Communities Act it
is imperative that these barriers be removed for all households in Massachusetts enabling
them to realize the energy savings potential. The financial barrier for households in the
non-low-income sector is a greater challenge for moderate-income households, those
households with incomes between 60 and 120% of SMI. While these moderate-income households
do have discretionary income, the amount is limited. While the amount of discretionary
income may be limited, there is an opportunity to reduce the energy use in moderate-income
households. Moderate-income households account for almost 25% of residential energy usage
in the state (Energy Programs Consortium, 2008). There are already programs in
Massachusetts and around the country that are targeting moderate-income households.
Programs like ReNew Boston, Kitsap Green, GETS Energy Services, Together We Save and others
are providing additional financial and other assistance to moderate-income households to
help remove the barriers to their participation and to help them realize the energy savings
imbedded in their homes. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to map energy
efficiency program participant data with Census data can help explain the relationship
between participation and income. Using data supplied by Cape Light Compact (CLC) to test
this methodology resulted in general trends showing that as income increases so does
participation in building envelope and HVAC energy efficiency measures. However, the
correlation is not strong or statistically significant and more research needs to be
conducted to further investigate the relationship. Ultimately, in order for Massachusetts
to realize the goals of the Green Communities Act and create an energy efficient housing
stock it will have to create programs that enable the participation of all households. This
includes the overcoming of the financial barriers that prevent families from undertaking
energy efficiency work on their homes, which can be more severe for moderate-income
households. Massachusetts should tailor the energy efficiency programs offered in the state
to meet the needs of moderate-income households.
Thesis (M.A.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning.
Advisor: Penn Loh.
Committee: Barbara Parmenter.
Keywords: Energy, Urban Planning, and Environmental Justice.read less