Data-Driven Project Supports Low-Income Households in Northeastern North Carolina
The final report of the Powering Energy Efficiency and Impacts Framework (PEEIF) project, a two-year U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored initiative focused on developing a data-driven framework to increase energy-related program effectiveness in low-income households, has been released and can be viewed here.
The Powering Energy Efficiency & Impacts Framework (PEEIF) project team developed a database and mapping application to enhance energy-related decision making utilizing publicly available and private data. As part of this project, a diverse, multi-sector partnership developed a database and a geospatial-mapping tool of homes located in five eastern North Carolina counties served by the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments (UCPCOG).
The report outlines the needs, challenges, and solutions identified through the project and presents opportunities for state agencies, utilities, and organizations that are currently providing, or interested in supporting, low-income energy-related services. It also details the project’s methods and results and identifies strategies for future iterations of the mapping tool.
Despite overall growth and economic vitality in North Carolina, there are communities throughout the state struggle that struggle with chronic and persistent poverty. Low-income households often face high energy costs as a percentage of income (i.e., they incur a high energy burden), resulting in less disposable income that could otherwise be used to make homes more energy efficient. In response to the challenge of reducing energy burden, a number of federal, state, utility, nonprofit, and local energy programs focus on low-income households. These range from funds to pay for inordinately high utility bills to improving energy efficiency in homes through physical improvements of the building and systems.
The PEEIF project was a collaborative effort led by UCPCOG and the NC Clean Energy Technology Center that included two additional partners at NC State University, the Center for GeoSpatial Analytics and the System Design Optimization Lab as well as the NC Sustainable Energy Association, NC Justice Center, Vermont Law School and others. Data providing partners include the NC Dept of Environmental Quality Weatherization Assistance Program, the NC Dept of Health and Human Services Low Income Energy Assistance Program and three utilities.
Some key accomplishments included:
- developing a process to overcome the legal barriers of data sharing among state agencies and utility service providers,
- providing publicly available data grouped by Census Tract overlaid with confidential information to help inform partners if they have adequately reached all areas of need in their communities,
- breaking out electric utility data into deciles to identify households that can most benefit from increased energy efficiency, as well as identify homes that have decreased energy use after receiving weatherization and other energy saving services, and
- calculating energy use intensity (energy use/square footage) to compare energy use between similar sized homes to assist with the identification of homes most in need of retrofit services and/or energy efficiency education.
To visit an overview of the project (GIS), copy and paste the following link into your browser: go.ncsu.edu/peeifstory and, when prompted, enter the following:
User name: peeif_user