An incandescent truth: Disparities in energy-efficient lighting availability and prices in an urban U.S. county

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In the U.S. lighting represents about 9% of the average household's primary energy consumption and 20% of the average household's energy bill. Lighting in U.S. homes is in a state of transition with steady growth in the adoption of more energy-efficient lighting technology, such as, compact florescent lamps (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). However, the adoption of energy-efficient lighting is not equitably distributed across socioeconomic groups, with poorer households less likely to adopt than higher-income households. This case study in Wayne County, Michigan explores the lack of parity in energy-efficient lighting adoption from an energy justice perspective by evaluating distributional disparities in light bulb availability and price in 130 stores across four poverty strata and five store types for a more holistic understanding of potential barriers for poorer households. We found that (1) energy-efficient bulbs were less available in high-poverty areas and smaller stores; (2) energy-efficient bulbs were more expensive in high-poverty areas and smaller stores; (3) upgrade costs from incandescent and halogen lamps (IHLs) to CFLs or LEDs were higher in high poverty areas; and (4) both poverty and store type were significant predictors of LED availability, while store type was the most significant predictor of LED price variability. We suggest several ways that the development and implementation of energy efficiency policies and programs may consider these disparities that affect access and affordability, in order to achieve a more just energy-efficient transition.

Research Areas: 
Energy justice
Energy efficiency
Residential lighting
Light emitting diode
Compact fluorescent lamp
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Applied Energy
Date Published: 
May 15, 2018
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Full Citation: 
Reames, Tony G., Michael A. Reiner, and M. Ben Stacey. (2018) “An incandescent truth: Disparities in energy-efficient lighting availability and prices in an urban U.S. county.” Applied Energy 218:95-103.
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