Families in the United States with the lowest income pay disproportionately more for their electricity, sometimes lacking basic access to services altogether. There has become a rising issue of people becoming forced to choose between paying their utility bills and buying medicine and food. As we shift to a cleaner electric system, the question becomes whether we’ll mitigate these inequalities or exacerbate them as we integrate new wind, solar, energy efficiency and grid management technologies into our electric system.
This has lead experts to identify three fundamental innovations that can provide a more equitable energy system in which customers don’t have to make intolerable trade-offs. The suggested reforms are: improved data collection, procedural reforms and customer education.
These recommendations are consistent with recent efforts undertaken by the Northwest Energy Coalition currently championing a bill in Oregon (HB 2242) that will increase the ability of underrepresented communities to participate in regulatory proceedings.
This bill will:
  • Empower the Oregon Public Utility Commission to authorize utilities to offer rate designs that keep service affordable for low-income or other deserved custimers.
  • Grant access to funding organizations that represent low-income communities and environmental justice organizations, so they can engage effectively in the regulatory process.
  • Create the position of Low-Income and Environmental Justice Advocate to represent the interest of low-income communities and communities that suffer disproportionately from pollution from the production of energy.

The NW Energy Coalition is also involved in pushing forward the Clean Electricity Bill (SB 5116) which provides increased assistance for low-income customers and investments to help communities whose economies and residents may face special challenges as a result of the transition away from fossil fuels.