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

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
May 15, 2018

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 Systems
Compact fluorescent lamp, Energy efficiency, Energy justice, Light emitting diode, Residential lighting
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
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.