A climate emergency, increasing disparity and poverty, and the housing crisis are challenging livability in Canadian cities. By understanding and addressing energy poverty, policymakers can advance progress on a number of these interrelated critical priorities and ensure we “leave no one behind” in the low-carbon transition.
In this context, energy poverty refers to the experience of households or communities that struggle with meeting their home energy needs. Home energy needs typically include electricity and home heating fuels. Currently, there is no formal and official definition for energy poverty in Canada.
Households in energy poverty face daily financial challenges and their homes often need basic upgrades and weatherization, making many existing clean energy programs out of reach. This inability to take advantage of clean energy programs means that not only do these households struggle with meeting their current energy needs, but they are also left out of the transition to a clean energy future.
In the past, first generation clean energy programs targeted early adopters and saw uptake from higher income households. Programs at this time were not designed for widespread uptake, and the market maturity and cost of these technologies were prohibitive to the majority of Canadian households, particularly, low and moderate income (LMI) households who face disproportionate home energy cost burdens.
“Next gen” clean energy programs seeking to achieve deep emissions reductions must plan and resource these programs for broad adoption, thus must be designed to address the barriers many households have in gaining access to these technologies. Without addressing these constraints and increasing broad participation in these programs, it is unlikely Canada’s cities will achieve needed GHG emissions. Moreover, these programs when designed to be accessible and inclusive by all via using the theory of ‘Targeted Universalism‘, and approach in the Guidebook CUSP helped to produce, energy efficiency and GHG reduction programs/polices, can be help to achieve a just, clean energy transition and address systemic inequities, including structural racism.
By using Energy Poverty and Equity Explorer tools and resources, Canadian cities will shift practices related to:
- How and what community data is analyzed and applied to climate action planning, policies and programming.
- How and who is engaged in the community for co-design and implementation of clean energy programs.
- How programs are designed, structured, resourced, and evaluated with a priority to achieve social and economic outcomes while pursuing deep emissions reductions.
A pan-Canadian, neighbourhood-scale equity and energy poverty mapping tool other resources created to support a shift in program design and delivery to an approach that better responds to the needs of low and moderate income (LMI) households and others who have been historically underrepresented in ‘first generation’ clean energy programs.
The equity and energy poverty mapping tool offers cities and their partners access to relevant data so they can better understand energy poverty, and design affordable clean energy policies and programs aimed at households with high energy cost burdens.
The tool helps shift practices by shedding light on:
- How and what community data is analyzed and applied to climate action planning, policies and programming
- How and who is engaged in the community for co-design and implementation of clean energy programs
- How programs are designed, structured, resourced, and evaluated with a priority to achieve social and economic outcomes while pursuing deep emissions reductions
Supplementary resources to the mapping tool available in both official languages. These resources include:
- Technical user guides and ‘how to’ video tutorials.
- Methodology and data specifications of the EnergyPoverty.ca mapping tool and data set.
- Backgrounder report on how energy poverty shows up in Canada – by geography, by housing tenure, by household income, and by building stock.
- Report on equity implications of energy poverty in Canada – a preliminary analysis of energy poverty trends in racialized, recent immigrant, and Indigenous households.