September 13, 2022

Bridging the Gap: Ensuring Access to Energy Efficiency For All

By: Jenna Barron

When the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy resumed its Energy Efficiency Finance Forum in 2022, it chose to highlight the imperative to advance equity by presenting a plenary entitled, “Bridging the Gap: Ensuring Access to Energy Efficiency For All.” 

The program featured an uptempo assessment of financial solutions for underserved communities, delivered by Dr. Tony G. Reames, Deputy Director for Energy Justice in the Office of Economic Impact & Diversity at the U.S. Department of Energy. Now the recording of Dr. Reames’ keynote remarks addressing solutions to the financing gap are available online as a valuable resource for all. 

Before joining the Biden Administration, Dr. Reames was an associate professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan, where he established the Urban Energy Justice Lab and the Energy Equity Project, focusing on research and solutions to the production and persistence of racial, income, and geographic energy-related disparities.

Dr. Reames’ remarks to the ACEEE Finance Forum highlight the absolute insufficiency of both grant based energy upgrades for low-income households through programs like the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program and low uptake of loan products, even in leading state-backed lending programs. 

Dr. Reames closed his remarks by drawing attention to the EPA’s new resource hub for inclusive utility investment, a term developed to help describe the attributes of a utility tariff for site-specific investment and cost recovery with strong consumer protections. Drawing on indicators of field experience, Dr. Reames called on experts in finance to recognize inclusive utility investment as a bridge that is producing distinctly different levels of access and participation compared to debt-based mechanisms.

This insight is especially timely given the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which authorizes federal spending at historic levels for clean energy deployment, yet it does not approach the scale necessary even in the next several years. We encourage everyone with an interest in rapidly scaling deployment of cost effective clean energy solutions to view Dr. Reames’ remarks as a timely message from one of the Department of Energy’s champions for energy justice.

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