The community in King County is grappling with the issue of energy justice, particularly for marginalized groups, including BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, and LGBTQIA+ communities. The King County Strategic Climate Action Plan (SCAP) specifically highlights these concerns, focusing on reducing the energy and utility burden on frontline communities, expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency in these communities, and integrating their expertise into policy decisions. A major hurdle is the utility burden on renters, particularly those in multi-family dwellings. They often lack the knowledge or ability to make necessary energy efficiency alterations and are not always aware of the utility costs included in their rent. These issues have led to an increased prevalence of negative coping strategies and highlight a significant area for action as King County seeks to make its climate change strategies and opportunities more accessible.
FUSE Executive Fellow S. Neil Larsen, partnering with King County, will work over the course of a year to address this issue, starting in October 2023. Neil’s responsibilities include developing relationships with key stakeholders, understanding their strengths, opportunities, and constraints, and gaining insights into their aspirations for regional utility justice. He will also review best practices from communities similar to King County that have implemented renter-centered utility justice programming. With this foundation, Neil will investigate the utility burden on renters compared to homeowners using quantitative and qualitative analysis. The findings from this investigation will inform his development of policy and program recommendations to reduce the utility burden on renters and promote energy justice. By the end of the Fellowship, Neil will have equipped King County stakeholders with the tools, recommendations, and analysis necessary to advance the utility justice agenda long-term.