After the brutal heat wave that enveloped Georgia this summer, many of us looked forward to the reprieve of lower temperatures, and corresponding lower utility bills. But unfortunately, nearly a month into autumn, some of us aren’t breathing the sigh of relief we anticipated — and the reason might be different than what you’d initially think.
All through the metro area, Atlantans are suffering from sky-high electric bills — especially in the more rural outlying areas, which face a high energy burden. The reason is often mischaracterized solely as rising temperatures, when it’s actually energy-inefficient technologies so common in minority low- to middle-income households that are just as much a factor.
This issue is the product of decades of redlining and housing insecurity directed at communities of color. Discriminatory housing policies have hindered access to the resources these residents need to secure and maintain home ownership – and, combined with rising energy costs, have increased the energy burden to alarming levels.
This takes a toll on monthly bills, but can also have life-threatening impacts. In fact, Black Americans are actually 40% more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in deaths from extreme temperatures.
But there is hope, in the form of a potentially life-changing campaign coming to the Atlanta area. Soon our community members might finally be able to experience real — and lasting — relief. The WeatheRISE ATL campaign offers select residents in parts of Fulton County the chance to make a significant transition to cleaner and more affordable energy generation in their homes.
While offering the opportunity for those residents to help reduce carbon emissions and see improved health outcomes, the campaign will provide the resources for those in the targeted communities to save almost $600 per year on their household utility bills — all at no cost to them.
Here’s how it works: Through a partnership with the City of Atlanta, participating residents will receive a certified home energy audit to evaluate energy-efficiency improvements best tailored to their household needs. From there, the City of Atlanta will provide the funding and resources to ensure the installation of these improvements. From installing smart thermostats to high-efficiency air conditioning and more, these simple changes will save these Atlantans money while combating climate change and years of environmental injustice.
Campaigns like this one are already being implemented on a national scale, and are having positive ripple effects all over the country – including elsewhere in Georgia. The Tillman family in Athens, as just one example, was able to use funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program to cut their electric and water bills by more than half.
Just think about how many stories we could have just like that, right here in our own backyard. Our neighbors deserve to see relief from the almost century-long impacts of environmental injustice, while also saving money on their electric bills and being empowered to take charge of their energy use.
To learn more about the WeatheRISE ATL Campaign and see if you qualify, visit https://www.100atl.com/weatherise-atl or
Adrienne L. Rice is an Atlanta resident and the Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Georgia Futures.