Kansas City is one of the worst in the country at the “energy burden” on low-income, Latino and African American households, according to a study released Wednesday.
Low-income area households must devote 8.5 percent of their income on average to energy bills, according to a report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and Energy Efficiency for All Coalition. Researchers analyzed census figures and household demographics from 48 of the largest U.S. cities.
By comparison, all households in the area pay about 4.5 percent of income on energy bills.
“It’s a situation we are concerned about,” said Dennis Murphey, Kansas City’s chief environmental officer. “The City has been working on this for quite some time. Obviously we’d like to make further progress.”
Researchers found that low-income families often live in less-efficient housing, experience more stress and health problems and have a harder time moving out of poverty, the report said.
The study includes ways to improve energy efficiency in low-income areas, from expanding low-income utility programs to collecting and tracking demographic data on program participation.
The Kansas City area already has worked to improve the situation. Winterization programs are available for low-income families, and KCP&L has several energy assistance programs for households and businesses.
Last June, the Kansas City Council voted to require owners of the largest buildings to monitor and report energy consumption. The measure drew strong opposition from some major property managers and developers.
“Part of the reason for creating that benchmarking is it will give the city information that will enable us to target those buildings not performing as well in energy efficiency,” Murphey said. “And we can provide better information to the utility.”