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Island Institute: Bridging the Rural Efficiency Gap 

02-08-2022 12:05

Bridging the Rural Efficiency Gap
Expanding access to energy efficiency upgrades in remote and high energy cost communities

A report by Island Institute in partnership with Maine Governor’s Energy Office.

Islands and rural communities throughout the United States pay some of the highest costs for electricity and heating fuel in the nation. With such high energy costs, the benefits of energy efficiency can be significant, but rural residents face several geographic, financial, and awareness barriers that make it difficult to invest in home energy upgrades. These barriers combine to create a market failure that we call the “rural energy efficiency gap.”

The existence of the rural efficiency gap is supported by data collected from Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—the four states researched for this report— which indicate that the “energy burden,” or percentage of household income spent on energy bills, is 33% higher in rural areas and that participation in residential energy efficiency financing and rebate programs can be significantly lower. The combination of higher energy burdens and greater barriers to participation can lead to inequitable distribution of available resources for energy efficiency, meaning that those who could benefit most from efficiency upgrades are often least able to access them.

This report is designed to be a resource for energy efficiency program administrators but may also be of interest to energy efficiency program implementers, policymakers, and regulators. It provides data about the rural energy efficiency gap and identifies barriers to energy efficiency in rural communities. It also highlights strategies that are helping to bridge the gap by making it easier for residents in cold climate, petroleum-dependent states—those with high thermal energy burdens—to increase comfort and safety in their homes while also reducing energy bills.

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