The UT Energy Symposium welcomes Dana Harmon, Executive Director of the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute, to give a talk titled "Addressing Energy Poverty in Texas."
Speaker bio: Dana Harmon is the Executive Director of the Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute, an organization dedicated to inspiring lasting energy solutions for low-income communities. Dana has overall strategic and operational responsibility for the organization. Her work takes a holistic approach to exploring the role energy can play in the transition from poverty to self-sufficiency. Prior to joining TEPRI in 2016, she enjoyed a 15-year career in the energy service and consumer products sectors, including senior level roles in technology commercialization, project management and operations, business development, and marketing.
Abstract: Energy poverty describes a circumstance faced by many Americans in which the personal cost of energy consumption needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle creates a significant or unnecessary economic burden. This is important because 37% of Texans are considered low-income, and low-income households are more likely to spend a higher percentage of their annual income to cover energy costs. High energy burdens can force people to make tradeoffs for basic necessities – having to choose between keeping the lights on, buying medicine, and putting food on the table for their families. The effects range from physical and mental health consequences, to negative environmental impacts, to even eviction and homelessness. A myriad of factors inhibit prosperity in economically disadvantaged communities – from housing to education, hunger to economic development – and by bringing together stakeholders from across the spectrum, we believe that we advance the role of energy in addressing poverty.
The transition towards a cleaner and more efficient energy system is underway, and we believe we have an opportunity to ensure that Texas’ most underserved communities are the beneficiaries. Our 2017 Energy Poverty Research Landscape Analysis revealed that reinventing energy consumer engagement is the most glaring and broadly agreed upon opportunity to improve energy service to low-income consumers. Most studies, however, convey that not enough is known about how to effectively engage vulnerable consumers, from needs assessment to best practices in program design - this is a gap that our research aims to fill. Our key areas of impact include reducing barriers to outreach and education, increasing energy efficiency in low-income housing, addressing access to capital and credit barriers, and advancing the role of distributed energy resources in addressing energy burden.
The UT Energy Symposium meets every Thursday during the long semesters. Come early to attend a networking session before the talk: refreshments will be served at 4:45 p.m. in the POB Connector Lobby outside the auditorium.