News from TEPRI – April 2021

Dear Friends of TEPRI,

Thank you to all of you who are working to serve our underserved neighbors – whether as energy providers, housing providers, local governments, agencies, or advocates, we want to acknowledge everyone who is working to ensure an equitable, clean, and secure energy present and future.  This has already been an eventful 2021 for energy and social equity, and February’s winter storm brought front and center the experience of energy insecurity for many people. TEPRI is focusing our efforts on continuing to raise awareness and education about energy poverty through sharing research, convenings and working with our partners to develop, demonstrate, and deploy solutions to mitigate energy insecurity in our state.  

With Earth Day this week, we are reflecting on and encouraged by the number of people working to ensure that frontline communities are represented and centered in energy transition efforts across the country and across the world. TEPRI will continue to  focus on the people and communities who are vulnerable to energy insecurity and collect information about their lived experiences – the disproportionate energy cost burdens, trade-offs to pay utility bills, discomfort and stress related to energy access and affordability, and impacts on health. Because energy consumption is highly dependent on buildings, we will continue to study housing and opportunities for weatherization, energy efficiency and energy technology deployment. We will continue to look for opportunities for distributed energy resources to address high energy burdens and increase community resilience.

We are honored to work to deliver lasting energy solutions for underserved communities, and grateful for the support of and collaboration with this network.  


Dana Harmon
Executive Director

Policy Pints w/ Senator Eckhardt

We are thrilled to be featured on a panel with Suzanne Russo, Rep. Erin Zwiener, and Dr. Michael Webber for Senator Eckardt’s Policy Pints series coming up this evening, April 22nd at 5:30 PM Central.  Dana will be discussing energy poverty and the energy industry’s efforts to tackle climate change in Texas. This event will be joinable via Zoom and streamable via Facebook Live.

Responding to Texas’ Winter Storm

Our team released an update on February 26 to discuss how those without access to resources weathered outages in Texas during winter storm Uri. You can find the blog post “Same Storm, Different Boats” here. Following this release, our team surveyed 953 Texans to gauge how households across Texas and across the income spectrum were impacted by the storm. A blog post on this survey’s initial findings was released on 3/17 called ”Lived Experiences of Winter Storm Uri”.

We are continuing to work with partners to provide additional analysis of the storm’s impacts. 

Program Development: 331 STEM:Energy

TEPRI is excited to announce an award from the National Science Foundation this year for a NSF INCLUDES Planning Grant for an inclusive clean energy workforce development initiative called331 STEMEnergy: 3 Cities, 3 Universities, 1 Vision. This initiative will bring together students and community members from Houston, Minneapolis, and Detroit to develop a planning initiative that is diverse and community-led, supported by the latest academic thought leadership to prepare young people with valuable STEM education and workforce opportunities in energy by combining the resources of 3 universities and the 3 cities to serve 1 singular vision. Our goal is to build a STEM and energy educational ecosystem guided by shared learning experiences, exploration, collaboration and inclusion.

Participants will develop a greater understanding of how they may become leaders in science, technology, engineering, math, and how their personal choices affect energy use and the environment. Partnering with University of Texas at Austin, University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, South Union Community Development Corporation, Northgate Development, and Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program in their respective cities, we will support the development of this initiative.

New Study: Energy and Emissions Savings Potential of Renewable Thermal Technologies in Affordable Housing

TEPRI is pleased to be presenting our work for the Renewable Thermal Alliance through their webinar series on Thursday, April 29 from 1-2 PM Central. Speaking on the webinar will be TEPRI Research Analyst Erick Jones alongside Dana Harmon. The duo will present our research on pathways to advance energy equity and ensure the financial and environmental benefits of renewable thermal technologies flow to low-income communities. Register to join the webinar here.  

The Renewable Thermal Alliance (RTA), a public-private partnership initiated by NYSERDA, CT Green Bank, and Yale University, aims to develop the infrastructure for large-scale deployment of renewable thermal technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy savings and fuel shifting.

Clean Energy Training Program & Curriculum

Our team is developing a multi-jurisdiction clean energy training program aimed at affordable housing developers and property owners to increase deployment of solar and energy efficiency investments in Texas affordable multi-family properties to benefit low-income communities, graciously funded by the BBVA Foundation.

We have created the outline of a curriculum that can be used by affordable housing developers who wish to apply for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LITHC). The curriculum describes the different types of affordable housing (e.g. Section 8 and the 9% LITHC credits), discusses how lowering utility bills helps increase revenue, provides tips for the Qualified Allowance Plan (QAP), outlines ongoing planning and operational strategies, and highlights exemplary existing affordable housing developer projects. Stay tuned for details on getting involved in the training!

UT Energy Week 2021

Earlier this month, Dana had the opportunity to present at the University of Texas at Austin’s UT Energy Week 2021. She spoke on the panel, Community Transitions: Enabling a Deep Change. UT Energy Week 2021 focused on the intertwined dynamics of how leaders and organizations in the public, private, and non-profit sectors balance the complex suite of pull-and-pushes to position their organizations and communities to not only lead in the energy transition, but also become more equitable and resilient in the process. Watch the panel here.

The Power Hungry Podcast

In an episode released on March 30, Dana spoke with Robert Bryce of The Power Hungry Podcast about how the February snowstorm increased energy insecurity among low-income Texans, why weatherization of homes helps increase resilience, and how energy, in her words, should be a “tool to help address poverty and socioeconomic disparities in our system.” Listen to the full podcast here.

The Future of Community Development Conference 

The Texas Association of Community Development Corporations (TACDC) is hosting their annual this week April 19-23 and focusing on “The Future of Community Development”.  TEPRI ED Dana Harmon was a featured panelist earlier this week and spoke to the group on the potential of energy efficiency investments to address energy insecurity in affordable housing. This annual event is held in the spring each year in various locations throughout Texas, though this year it will be held virtually.  TEPRI and TACDC have partnered for many years on finding alignment in energy poverty and community development. 

Energy Opportunities Coalition

TEPRI has organized a small group of key stakeholders working in energy and equity to join together and form the Energy Opportunities Coalition (EOC). This group has been working together since Fall 2020 to identify opportunities in energy solutions that can most benefit communities in need in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the exacerbated inequities in the energy sector disproportionately affecting low-income communities.

Our goal is to catalyze economic renewal through clean energy in Texas and beyond through solution-oriented discussion and collaboration. We are focusing on opportunities in three tracks: Mobility, Health, and Housing/DERs.

Learn more and follow along for Coalition updates here.

American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)

ACEEE has recently kicked off a new two-year initiative,  Leading with Equity: Centering Equity across ACEEE’s Scorecards, for which TEPRI’s Jacquie Moss serves on the Advisory Group. ACEEE has been releasing Scorecards and other progress reports to benchmark and drive action among states, localities and utilities.

The aim of these efforts is to identify best practices and set a high bar for what constitutes leading clean energy policies and programs. ACEEE is launching the Leading with Equity Initiative to better ensure that everyone has equitable access to energy efficiency and decarbonization investments and benefits.


Why Join TEPRI?

The Texas Energy Poverty Research Institute is accelerating the move towards an energy system that is clean, distributed, affordable, and supports healthy thriving communities.

We are a collaboration of energy and social equity stakeholders working to inspire lasting energy solutions for all people in Texas. We work with teams of experts from inside and outside the energy sector to conduct research, build evidence, create tools for practitioners, and partner with local jurisdictions to demonstrate and test new models, programs, and policies that can scale for widespread impact.

Our work improves the systems that are needed to enable energy solutions to reach underserved communities so that their benefits may flow to those most in need.

Learn about our Membership Opportunities.