Energy Poverty

Since its inception, centring equity in the work of climate practitioners and municipal plans, policies, and programs has been CUSP’s priority, and energy poverty has emerged as the nexus of climate and equity for CUSP and its members.

What is energy poverty?

Energy poverty refers to the experience of households or communities that struggle to heat and cool their homes and power their lights and appliances. Those in this situation face multiple challenges and impacts, including:
  • Discomfort from living in cold and drafty homes.
  • Disruptions from abrupt utility shutoffs, such as inability to cook and spoiled food.
  • Sacrificing other essentials such as groceries and medication in order to keep up with energy bills.
  • Increased incidence of respiratory illness in children and infants
  • Higher stress and poor mental health outcomes for adults.
  • Difficulty participating fully in community life.

Who experiences energy poverty?

There is no “typical” scenario or single cause. Energy poverty affects households with diverse income ranges, and individuals who live in a variety of housing types all across the country.

CUSP’s preliminary analysis of energy poverty rates among racialized, recent immigrant, and Indigenous households indicates that the impacts of structural racism are evident in the higher rates of energy poverty likely to be experienced by traditionally marginalized communities. No one single factor is driving this trend, but the disproportionate incidence of energy poverty underscores the need for an intentional response to address racial inequities

Core Resources

Energy Poverty and Equity Explorer Tool

Using 2016 Census data, the CUSP Energy Poverty and Equity Explorer tool enables users to visualize different levels of home-energy cost burdens, along with other variables such as housing quality and affordability indicators, income and poverty status indicators, and racialization indicators at various geographical scales.

The Tool received honourable mention as a 2020 World Changing Idea by Fast Company in May 2020.

Energy Poverty Backgrounder

Available in french here.

Equity Implications of Energy Poverty in Canada

Available in french here.

Guidebook on Equitable Clean Energy Program Design for Local Governments and Partners


Transforming Income-Qualified Home Energy Retrofit Programs in BC