In this report, we examine how Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), including energy efficiency and solar, could help reduce energy burdens in Harris county, the county seat of the city of Houston. We characterize low-to-moderate income (LMI) households by income, building type, building age, and tenure. We find that while expensive investments like rooftop solar have the technical capacity to reduce energy they are economically tenuous for home owning LMI households and not feasible at all to renting households. However, cheaper solutions like replacing light bulbs with LEDs, that are available to all households regardless of building tenure, and replacing older less efficient HVAC equipment with energy efficient heat pumps, available to home owning households or those with proactive landlords, could dramatically reduce energy usage and energy burdens in Harris County.
This paper has provided the foundation for TEPRI to continue investigating the technologies that could reduce energy burdens. This includes work that examines how switching to heat pumps would effect energy burdens and climate emissions in Harris County and how community solar can lower the barriers of entry for solar in LMI communities.
This report was originally published in March 2021 – Emery is the lead author of this research.