Report: ‘Energy Insecurity’ Hits Black Households Hardest

Extreme heat, poor housing quality, and the heat island effect make it harder for many households to afford energy bills.

1 minute read

September 17, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Close-up of window-mounted air conditioning unit on outside of red brick building

betzalit / Adobe Stock

According to a brief by Ysabelle Kempe in Smart Cities Dive, “A Brookings Metro report published Sept. 6 highlights that Black renters disproportionately experience energy insecurity, which stems from an inability to pay energy bills.” The findings reveal how climate change amplifies insecurities, pushing low-income renters already struggling to afford bills over the edge.

“The researchers’ analysis of 2020 data found that 59% of Black renters faced energy insecurity compared with 36% of White renters,” Kempe adds. “Furthermore, neighborhoods with more Black residents often face more intense heat island effects than other areas.”

The disparity extends to homeowners: “The report also found that 44% of Black homeowners faced energy insecurity in 2020, compared with 18% of White homeowners.”

According to Brookings Metro senior research associate Manann Donoghoe, “the first step cities can take involves considering how the history of racially biased policies has shaped where people live and their housing quality. Once local governments reckon with that knowledge, they should consider and implement policies that address the gaps for vulnerable neighborhoods, which will start with targeting, in many cases, Black-majority or minority-majority neighborhoods, he said.”

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