Energy Democracy is an umbrella term that integrates the need for community clean energy systems with the need to equitably share the resources that are available. Underneath this umbrella are Community Solutions’ decades-long concerns with energy conservation, appropriate technologies such as the Passive House, and the development of renewable energy systems. These interests are reflected in our films, online videos, written works and community outreach through the Energy Navigators program and Environmental Dashboard project.

Some other definitions and descriptions of energy democracy:

Energy democracy means that community residents are innovators, planners, and decision-makers on how to use and create energy that is local and renewable.”
— Center for Social Inclusion
Energy democracy...means a decentralized energy system, one characterized by social and community-based control and ownership of energy resources.”
— Renewable Communities Alliance
Residents and communities across the state are clamoring for a climate resilient, racially equitable, and economically just energy system that is rooted in locally owned renewable energy projects. From district-wide energy efficiency and solar projects led by people of color in the Bronx to community-owned wind projects in Tompkins County and green development zones rooted in low-income communities in Buffalo, [we] have the models that can help spur innovation and investment in local economies.”
— Center for Social Inclusion
With climate change looming, we are facing an energy emergency. How can unions fight for change? Great video from RLS-NYC and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED),

Energy Burden

  • Low-income households spend 10% of their income on energy, very low-income households spend more than 20% (average spending is 3.3%)
  • Within rentals, 88% of tenants pay their full energy costs
  • Federal renewable energy rebates only apply to homeowners, excluding 25% of low-income whites and over 50% of people of color
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program weatherized ~95,000 homes per year from 2000 to 2007, a mere 1.6% of the 39.9 million houses that are eligible for energy assistance
  • The ACEEE surveyed 24 exemplary low-income programs in 2005 and found that average participation rate was 2.6% and median participation rate was 1%.

Energy Navigators Program:

Energy Navigators is a project developed by the Community Solutions in collaboration with Yellow Springs Home, Inc. and Opportunities for Individual Change in Springfield as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA national anti-poverty program.

Goal: to develop a coordinated energy literacy campaign for the low-income citizens of Yellow Springs, Springfield, and possibly Dayton. The pilot materials developed—in print, web, video, and workshop format—will later be shared broadly with Community Action Partnership (CAP) agencies throughout Ohio and the Nation.

Energy Literacy Defined:

Awareness of…

  • Low-cost energy saving strategies: covering windows with plastic sheeting for increased insulation, caulking building leaks to prevent escaping heat, and switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs.
  • No-cost behavioral changes: turning down thermostats, using cold water rather than hot taps for many household uses, closing off rooms in the winter, unplugging what is not in use, pulling shades or otherwise covering windows, turning down heat at night, tapping natural resources (south-facing windows, natural ventilation) and wearing layers indoors.

Energy literacy also includes the ability to read utility bills; awareness of programs and other assets that are available to low-income residents in need of emergency energy assistance; and training low-income residents to perform energy audits to assess their home energy use and needs.

An Energy Navigator is equipped not only to make changes in their own life and home, but to catalyze and assist interested neighbors, schools, churches, etc. in navigating energy access, efficiency and reduction.

This project was designed to empower low-income residents through not only increasing energy literacy and skills, but also by co-developing programming and assistance with community members to address what they identify as their greatest energy needs, and empower them to control their own energy future. We have begun outreach through the help of our partner organizations, faith groups, youth groups and schools.

Berelson, Serj. Myths of Low-Income Energy Efficiency Programs: Implications for Outreach. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings (2014): 7-32.

Bird, Stephen, and Diana Hernández. "Policy options for the split incentive: Increasing energy efficiency for low-income renters." Energy Policy 48 (2012): 506-514.

Bird, Stephen, and Diana Hernández. "Energy Burden and the Need for Integrated Low‐Income Housing and Energy Policy." Poverty & Public Policy 2.4 (2010): 5-25.

Davis, Matt. 2011. Behavior and Energy Savings: Evidence from a Series of Experimental Interventions. Environmental Defense Fund.

Eisenberg, Joel. 2010. Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Memorandum: Background Data and Statistics. Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Mark Kaiser, Allan Pulsipher. “Concerns over the allocation methods employed in the US low-income home energy assistance program.” Interfaces, 36 (4) (2006), pp. 344–358

U.S. Census Bureau, US Department of Energy, US Energy Information Administration


Energy Navigators program:

Video of the Stirling Engine Presentation:

Renewable Energy Solutions Video Channel: