One thing that we saw through the COVID-19 pandemic is how working from home changes electricity demands and what that means for electricity bills.

Source: CBS 8 San Diego/Youtube

Many companies went remote during the pandemic and have yet to go back into the office or have decided to work remotely for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, this shifts energy costs from employers to workers, which can put a huge burden on people who live in older, less efficient homes and who are already struggling to meet their needs.

Destenie Nock, an assistant professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, told The Verge that her home in Pittsburgh was either freezing in the winter or burning hot in the summers. Her home is a century-old and is not as well insulated as newer homes which became clear to her when she began to work from home after the 2020 pandemic began.

Nock is also the director of the Energy, Equity and Sustainability (EES) Group at Carnegie Mellon, so she decided to work with a team of researchers to find out how pandemic-induced lockdowns affect the way people use electricity in their homes.

They found that patterns that used to be predictable have changed. They also found that those changes have already had a disproportionate impact on people based on race and income.

The team looked at smart meter data from thousands of homes and businesses in Arizona and Illinois from January 2019 through April 2020. They found that while offices and other commercial buildings shut down and used less energy, residential electricity usage increased by around 5 percent. Americans paid $6 billion more on their home electricity bills from April to July 2020 than they would have before lockdowns.

Their research shows that low-income households and communities of color saw the greatest increase in electricity consumption. In Arizona, for example, they found that for low-income, non-white people, electricity usage jumped 10 percent, double that of the national average. This may be because people with low incomes tend to live in older housing with less insulation and less efficient heating and cooling systems.

“We know that it’s very expensive to be poor,” Nock said. “You’re going to be needing a lot more energy consumption to achieve the same standard of living as your more wealthy counterparts.”

Recently, the Biden Administration announced six new actions to help lower the electricity bills for working families. Millions of Americans will get relief on their energy bills as prices continue to skyrocket. The average electric bill in 2020 was $117.36 per month, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The average gas bill was $667 per year, according to the American Gas Association. We hope that these initiatives will help communities all over the country, work towards a renewable energy future, and finally lower energy bills!

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