Reducing Barriers to Residential Energy Security through an Integrated Case-management, Data-driven, Community-based approach

Start Date: 
Sep 1, 2020
End Date: 
Aug 31, 2024

SCC-IRG Track 1

The goal of this Smart and Connected Communities (SCC) project is to explore the efficacy of new social-technological paradigms to reduce residential energy insecurity for low- and moderate-income (LMI) households in three neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan, which is one of the top ten highest energy burdened metros in the US, where LMI households spend 15 - 30% of their income on energy costs (6% or less is considered affordable). This research fully integrates community perspectives in the design, application and testing of emerging smart technologies, individualized residential energy management approaches, and energy rate structure reform to realize cost savings, improved energy efficiency and conservation, and enhanced health equity. The study draws from several distinct fields: engineering, public administration, and public health, and actively engages community partners in all aspects of the project guided by a community-based participatory research approach (CBPR) for all major decision-making and project implementation. The knowledge created by the project can improve the design of future utility residential energy programs, increase equity in electricity rates, and lower overall US energy consumption, thereby reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources, facilitating a faster transition to renewable energy sources, and improving the overall impact of the electricity sector. The project will foster societal outcomes to advance knowledge for social and technological innovations to promote smart and connected communities. The outcomes include reduced energy insecurity and consumption for disadvantaged urban populations, increased LMI participation in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, participation of women and underrepresented minorities in interdisciplinary research, and advancement of meaningful academic community engagement.

The proposed study will support the advancement of social and technological innovation in three research aims. First, we will develop and implement a neighborhood-embedded energy case management intervention to facilitate participation in utility energy programs. This intervention will engage nearly 200 participant households, to evaluate the effect on program utilization, energy consumption, and energy burden with the introduction of an energy case manager (ECM) who recruits households, develops individualized energy improvement plans (EIP), and assists households to implement the EIP. The ECMs will facilitate accessing existing utility programs with the use of smart technology-driven recommendations (i.e. smart meters). Second, we will develop social-technological methods to determine the household-specific amount of electricity that should be considered a basic right. Algorithms will be developed that use smart meter data to identify consumers' basic electricity needs. Neighborhood focus groups will enable a deliberative process through which residents will consider and define electricity-dependent household necessities, further informing our understanding of basic electricity needs. Third, we use knowledge from the first and second research aims to develop a new electricity rate paradigm that seeks to achieve the following objectives: i) a free level of basic electricity, ii) supplemental electricity priced to cover utility provider costs, iii) dynamic stability, and iv) rates that encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy investments.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Research Areas: