Energy insecurity and COVID

Energy insecurity, or the inability to pay one’s energy bills, is a major problem facing millions of American households. In this work, we seek to define the challenges associated with energy insecurity, identify the factors that contribute to it, and evaluate ways in which energy insecure households cope with their conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced an unprecedented challenge for households across the U.S. that already struggle to pay their energy bills. We are currently studying the way in which households under 200 percent of the federal poverty line are experiencing energy insecurity throughout the pandemic through a four-wave survey, as funded by the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Environmental Resilience Institute, and the Indiana University Office of the Vice President of Research.

Latest Information: Survey of Household Energy Insecurity in Time of COVID

Waves one and two have been completed and the results of each can be found in the menu below. The surveys capture responses from nationally-representative samples of those households at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. The survey questions relate to energy expenses, household energy behavior, and activities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The first wave survey of the nationally-representative sample was conducted between April 30 and May 25, 2020. 

Highlighted findings:

  • 22% of respondents had to reduce or forgo other basic needs in the past month to pay their energy bill
  • In the previous month, 13% of households indicated they could not pay an energy bill

View Nationally Representative Survey Results

The survey of Indiana households at or below 200% of the federal poverty line was administered from April 30 through June 2, 2020.

Notable findings: 

  • 15% of households indicated they could not pay an energy bill in the prior month
  • 13% of respondents reported receiving shutoff notices

View Indiana Specific Survey Results

The second wave survey was administered during August 2020. This report includes results from Wave-2 and combined results of the two waves.

Preliminary findings:

  • The data suggest that 3.8 million Americans could not pay an energy bill in at least one month since May
  • Approximately 27% of Black and 27% of Hispanic respondents could not pay their energy bill since May
  • Only 38% of respondents reported having received a stimulus check through the CARES act

View Full Preliminary Report

Please check back for future survey results. 

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In The Conversation

Percentage of respondents who reported being unable to pay an energy bill from late April through late May of 2020, by demographic group. (FPL = Federal poverty level)  The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Data Source: Survey of Household Energy Insecurity in the Time of COVID

Energy is a basic need, and many Americans are struggling to afford it in the COVID-19 recession.

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