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Report Links Poverty and Electricity Costs in the Southeast - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Report Links Poverty and Electricity Costs in the Southeast

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An environmental group with roots in Charlottesville has released a report showing a link between poverty and electricity costs in the southeast. The findings show families in the region spend a higher percentage of their income on electricity than the national average.

Appalachian Voices is a conservation nonprofit dedicated to protecting the natural resources of the southeast. Representatives say this is a chance to spotlight the need for change in areas including central Virginia.

Appalachian Voices campaign coordinator Hannah Wiegard says a report on poverty and electricity costs in the southeast shows a complicated pattern.

“Folks out in these rural areas have lower income to begin with and also find themselves living in homes that are older, less energy efficient - so older furnaces, air conditioning units, air leaks around the windows and doors, so folks are having to spend more on electricity costs,” said Wiegard.

The data released Thursday shows that people across eight states - including Virginia - spent an average of 3 percent of their income on electric bills in 2012. In comparison the average U.S. household spent 2.7 percent of family income on electricity and gas bills combined.

For low-income families, electric bills can be as high as 20 percent of household income.

“It's the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the war on poverty this year, and impoverished communities in rural areas are part of a segment of the population where poverty is getting worse,” said Wiegard.

A Google map outlining the region's electricity cost burden also reveals the hardest hit families are served by public rural cooperatives.

“A big goal for Appalachian Voices right now is to advocate for member-owned electric cooperatives to start to provide these energy efficiency programs to their customers. Very few folks have access to them right now,” said Wiegard.

The analysis is based on data from the U.S. Census and the Energy Information Administration. For the full report, click here.

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