Over the past two decades, new electric technologies, appliance standards, and increased energy efficiency requirements in state and local building codes have dramatically lowered residential energy consumption and increased the comfort and health found in family homes across the Tennessee Valley. Unfortunately, these benefits have flowed primarily to homeowners with the disposable income to take advantage of technological advances and the utility programs that promote their use.
Residents in the Southeast face historically high rates of poverty, and low-income families often live in homes that are inefficient, uncomfortable, and, in many cases, unhealthy for occupants. Despite the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) low residential energy rates ranking in the top quartile nationally, disproportionately high electricity usage represents an even greater burden to low-income families who spend a greater proportion of their resources on electricity. Energy efficiency and weatherization measures can help to lower energy bills for low-income households, and such have also been proven to improve indoor air quality, safety, and comfort, thereby positively impacting human health.
TVA created the Home Uplift Program to address the significant energy efficiency and weatherization needs for low-income households in Tennessee and across the Tennessee Valley. As of 12/31/2020, TVA has contributed $8.2 million dollars in funding to Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB), Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW), and Nashville Electric Service (NES) to seed their Home Uplift Programs. TVA has also partnered with Pathway Lending to administer a combined $9.4 million for Rural Home Uplift projects.
The Office of Energy Programs (OEP) has since leveraged TVA’s Home Uplift Program and partnered with LPCs to invest in the vision to create a sustainable, quality program to increase energy efficiency weatherization for low-income families in Tennessee. In 2021, TDEC OEP provided grants of $750,000 to EPB, KUB, MLGW, & NES to extend the reach of their Home Uplift Programs. This funding will be used to cover the costs of energy efficiency and weatherization measures for limited income homeowners that are customers in their respective service areas. TVA is also providing implementation services and administrative support to EPB, KUB, and NES.
Customers who qualify for the programs receive valuable energy efficiency upgrades. In addition to saving money on their energy bills, participants also report improvements in the comfort and air quality of their homes. Eligible energy efficiency upgrades include air sealing, duct sealing/replacement, attic insulation, water heater and pipe insulation, wall insulation, HVAC cleaning and tuning, HVAC replacement, window and door replacement, heat pump water heater installation, refrigerator replacement, LED bulbs, and low-flow showerheads.