The NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program released a new report called “Lights out in the cold: Reforming utility shut-off policies as if human rights matter.” The report calls for the elimination of utility disconnections and expansion of clean energy opportunities for low-income populations.
According to the report, low-income utility customers are at a higher risk of having their utilities disconnected due to nonpayment and fluctuating utility costs.
The NAACP shared a few personal stories of tragedy related to utility shut-offs. One photo shows the aftermath of a space heater fire in Prince George’s County, Maryland. When electricity or gas is shut off, people sometimes must resort to unsafe means to survive—whether it be space heaters or stovetops. Another story describes an elderly man in Texas who needed an oxygen concentrator to survive, and suffocated after his electricity was shut off.
The report offers recommendations for legislatures that include passing legislation that enables advancement of energy independence. The group also encourages consumer advocates and utility customers to develop community solar gardens and advocate for policies that move communities toward energy independence.
The long-term vision outlined in the report focuses on energy justice: “As we focus on eliminating poverty while ensuring energy security, one way of doing this is to reform the energy sector, a $6 trillion sector, by transitioning power to the people and anchoring the change in increased energy efficiency distributed generation of clean energy.”