New State Plan Outlines Steps for Reducing Energy Burden, Improving Energy Efficiency
Oregon Housing and Community Services, Oregon Department of Energy, and the Oregon Public Utility Commission today announced the publication of an initial 10-year plan to reduce energy burden and improve energy efficiency in affordable housing across the state. The plan, which is accompanied by an interactive assessment of energy use in affordable housing, provides recommended steps for Oregon to reduce the energy burden on low-income households.
Energy burden is defined as the percentage of household income that goes toward energy costs. If a household spends more than six percent of their income on energy-related costs, they are considered energy-burdened. The inter-agency assessment and plan, along with the Oregon Department of Energy’s recently completed Biennial Energy Report, indicate that lower-income families are more likely to be energy-burdened.
“By improving energy efficiency, lower-income Oregonians can benefit from smaller utility bills and greater housing stability,” said Oregon Housing and Community Services Director Margaret Salazar. “Weatherization improvements have benefits beyond energy cost savings, such as creating better indoor air quality and improved comfort and safety of homes, which every Oregonian deserves. The reduced greenhouse gas emissions makes these efforts a win-win.”
The assessment looks at low-income Oregonians’ electricity and natural gas energy burden and identifies regions with the greatest energy affordability gap. According to the assessment and similar research done across the country, the majority of energy burdened households are in rural areas. Regions with the largest gap are located in central and eastern Oregon.
The state’s plan outlines initial strategies to improve energy efficiency in low-income housing, with steps that can be taken over time. Analysis conducted by Oregon Housing and Community Services and Energy Trust of Oregon identified more than $113 million in annual potential energy cost savings through low-income energy efficiency projects across the state.
The plan acknowledges the rapidly changing energy landscape, with recommendations that were developed to be flexible so that the plan stays relevant throughout the course of implementation. “Existing technologies will continue to develop, while new, exciting, and more advanced energy efficient technologies will surface over the next ten years. It’s important that we acknowledge that and make adjustments to the plan to achieve more energy savings,” said Blake Shelide, an engineer at the Oregon Department of Energy.
The plan and accompanying assessment were completed as part of an inter-agency effort outlined in 2017 by Governor Brown in Executive Order 17-20. Additional work undertaken by the inter-agency group can be found on the Oregon Department of Energy website.