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Energy Burden

Variable Definitions:

Average Energy Burden: the average percentage of income that households are spending on energy costs

Average Low-Income Energy Burden: the average percentage of income that low income households, defined as households making less than 80% of the Area Median Income, are spending on energy costs


U.S Department of Energy Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool, with housing data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2018 Public Use Microdata Samples

Years Available:

Why are these variables important to measure?

Energy burdens are costs associated with energy consumption in a household, particularly when a substantial percentage of income is spent on utility bills. It is important to track energy burden because of its role in housing affordability. Studies have found that median household income and poverty rates are strong predictors of energy burden. Nevertheless, housing affordability typically omits utility and energy expenses when calculating household cost burden. This means there is a fundamental gap in data collection when framing what housing cost burdens low income households face. In 2022, the LADWP recognized that energy inequities “are linked to higher respiratory diseases…and an inability to get out of poverty due to barriers and limited access to resources.” Tracking energy burden at the local level is important as it contributes to a more accurate representation of housing affordability in Los Angeles, or lack thereof. With this context, policymakers are equipped to make more equitable decisions to increase housing affordability. 

Los Angeles public officials have long advocated for citywide reductions of energy consumption, which has been met with efforts to expand renewable energy alternatives (Reyes, 2014). However, low-income households and renters have fewer energy efficiency appliances and have less access to programmable thermostats (Xu, & Chen, C.,2019). Ultimately, increasing the affordability and accessibility of energy efficient products is key to reducing our environmental footprint.
Written by Kyra Chan


Kontokosta, Reina, V. J., & Bonczak, B. (2020). Energy Cost Burdens for Low-Income and Minority Households: Evidence From Energy Benchmarking and Audit Data in Five U.S. Cities. Journal of the American Planning Association, 86(1), 89–105. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2019.1647446

Moore. (2021). A Spatial Approach to Analyzing Energy Burden and Its Drivers. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

Reyes, S. (2022). Coming to Terms with Energy Inequities. LADWP News. https://www.ladwpnews.com/coming-to-terms-with-energy-inequities/

Drehobl, A., & Ross, L. (2016). Lifting the high energy burden in America’s largest cities: How energy efficiency can improve low income and underserved communities (Research Report u1602). American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Retrieved from https://aceee.org/sites/default/files/publications/researchreports/u1602.pdf

Zohrabian, & Sanders, K. T. (2020). The energy trade-offs of transitioning to a locally sourced water supply portfolio in the City of Los Angeles. Energies (Basel), 13(21), 5589–. https://doi.org/10.3390/en13215589

Derenski, J., Porse, E., Gustafson, H., Cheng, D., & Pincetl, S. (2018). Spatial and temporal analysis of energy use data in Los Angeles public schools. Energy Efficiency, 11(2), 485-497. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12053-017-9580-x

Xu, & Chen, C. (2019). Energy efficiency and energy justice for U.S. low-income households: An analysis of multifaceted challenges and potential. Energy Policy, 128, 763–774. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2019.01.020

Reyes, Emily A. (2014). LOS ANGELES; Mayor: Reduce energy use 15. The Los Angeles Times.

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