Rural Data Resources for State Energy Planning and Programs
Rural and small-town energy use, access, and costs present a major challenge for state policymakers and program administrators, but also an opportunity for investment and economic development by leveraging energy efficiency, fuel production, and energy-generating technologies, and inclusive policy making to reduce the household, agricultural, and small business energy burden in these communities. States are increasingly concerned with the “rural energy burdens”, meaning the percentage of household income spent on energy consumption. A recent study found that the energy burden for rural households was about 33 percent higher than the national average (3.3 percent of household spending), largely due to higher home heating and cooling costs, and longer commutes requiring more fuel. This difference in energy burden is even more drastic for low income rural households, who spend an average of nine percent of household income on energy. Of the nation’s 350 persistently poor counties, 300 are rural,2 making it vital to understand patterns of energy use and needs in these communities to craft effective public policy and programs. This disparity has highlighted the need for states to tailor policies and programs to account for the differences in rural America.