How Utilities Can Help Lower-Income Homeowners Afford the Transition to High-Efficiency, All-Electric Homes

January 6, 2020 |

An essential piece of the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy requires eliminating the use of fossil fuels in the home by swapping out inefficient appliances powered by gas and oil and swapping in super efficient appliances that use electricity—electricity that can be made cleanly and sustainably.

In 2019, Groundwork Clean Energy Policy Specialist Ric Evans (pictured) was part of a research team that looked at a handful of electric cooperatives—mostly Midwest rural cooperatives—leading efforts to help homeowners make that transition to 100% electric appliances. The team authored a report that assessed leading technologies for electrically heating air and water and looked at ways co-ops are helping families finance the transition without negatively affecting household budgets. Expense has always been a primary hurdle for families wanting to make the transition, so an innovative financing solution would help pave the way to widespread adoption. Researchers also assessed how utilities can make the transition to 100% clean energy homes in an equitable way—so much of previous renewable energy assistance has gone to upper income brackets.

The report team is part of ReAMP (, a nonprofit member organization dedicated to speeding the transformation to an equitable 100% clean energy economy. The report’s lead author and researcher is Miguel Yanez, of Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), a Washington, D.C., nonprofit.

We asked Ric to share some thoughts in a q/a interview.

Ric, give us a sense for where the report idea came from.

There was a group of about a half-dozen of us that felt we’d been hearing about this trend of going to all-electric appliances with power generated by clean energy—it’s called beneficial electrification—and we thought we could learn a lot by looking at which co-ops are doing this and what seems to be working and not working.

Is there a finding that, for you, really stands out when you think of the research?

The main thing we found is, quite frankly, there are not that many programs being implemented around the country, so one of our main recommendations is that these programs should be greatly expanded and properly promoted.

Another finding that really resonated with me, and that I knew from my previous work as an energy auditor with the local community action agency, is that low- and low-middle-income homes are quite often some of the most costly to live in. The homes have the most energy loss, and they have the oldest, most inefficient equipment. People think that low-income people have low energy bills, but that is not the case. It can cost $700 to fill the propane tank, and that is a big chunk of money for a lot of folks. The good news is that changing to an electric air-source heat pump can save a lot of money, while also being better for the environment and safer for all of us long term.

“What I love about this report is it reveals real possibilities,
things people can do today!”
What I love about this report is it reveals real possibilities, things people can do today. You can completely electrify a home and then move on to decarbonize the production of electricity using solar and wind and other renewables. That is how we can achieve a zero-carbon energy economy for everyone’s home. You can also then extend that to electric cars and electrifying transportation—very fun stuff!