For Coloradans Facing Energy Insecurity, Affordable Programs Can Mean Keeping the Lights On

National Philanthropic Trust | Aly Semigran

Flipping on a light switch. Taking a hot shower in the morning to start your day. Cooking a meal on the stove for your family. It’s hard to imagine these daily necessities as unaffordable luxuries, but for 1 in 4 Coloradans facing energy insecurity, these basic human needs can be just that.

Energy insecurity is defined by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health as the “inability to adequately meet basic household needs” which has “profound implications for health and health equity.” It is also disproportionately high for “households below the poverty level and headed by persons of color.”

With Colorado residents facing higher-than-average inflation rates (particularly those who live in Denver) and more anticipated snowfall this winter due to El Niño, paying for energy can mean forgoing other basic needs such as food, medical care, clothing, transportation and childcare.

Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), a nonprofit dedicated to bridging the gap between federal funding for energy assistance and the home energy needs of Coloradans with low income, saw a 25% increase in the need for services in 2022. According to Tess Richey, vice president of development for EOC, “We don’t see that decreasing that much this year…the need is not going away.”

Headquartered in Denver, EOC works on a statewide scale by partnering with agencies, community groups and other nonprofits so that Coloradans can access these often urgently needed services. (Since their inception, EOC has invested over $410 million on energy through programs and services and assists an average of 20,000 households each year.)

The organization provides equitable energy services, including bill payment assistance, a heat helpline, community solar programs, and CARE (Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy), which provides Coloradans with low-income in participating counties with home energy efficiency upgrades at no cost.

“We are a support service and a safety net for families that really need assistance that goes above and beyond federal funding.”

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