Purpose

Low-income households, indigenous people, people of color, and remote communities often experience disproportionate health, wealth, employment, and education outcomes. They are more likely to be burdened by environmental conditions such as pollution, blight, waste, and substandard housing. Designing programs and policies that prioritize marginalized communities benefit from their input and guidance.

Value

By placing a focus on equity and community engagement in the development of energy policies and programs, State Energy Offices can play a vital role in helping local communities address inequities. Equitable and inclusionary energy and climate policies help ensure that the costs and benefits of energy consumption and production are fairly distributed, and that historically disadvantaged and underserved people have access to beneficial technologies and investments.

Definitions

Equity and equitable outcomes will vary depending on local goals and circumstances. Engaging with community can help identify what equity can and should look like locally. Established definitions, subcategories, and dimensions may be helpful starting places.

Examples

A global energy system that fairly disseminates both the benefits and costs of energy services, and one that has representative and impartial decision-making. It involves the following key elements:

  • Costs, or how the hazards and externalities of the energy system are imposed on communities unequally, often the poor and marginalized;
  • Benefits, or how access to modern energy systems and services are highly uneven;
  • Procedures, or how many energy projects proceed with exclusionary forms of decision-making that lack due process and representations.

- Global Energy Justice by Benjamin K. Sovacool and Michael H. Dworkin (Defining "energy justice")

The fair distribution of benefits and burdens from energy production and consumption.

- Partnership for Southern Equity

Equity: Fair and just opportunities for all people.

Racial equity: The development of policies, practices, and strategic investments to reverse racial disparity trends, eliminate institutional racism, and ensure that outcome and opportunities for all people are no longer predictable by race.

- City of Minneapolis

The term equity refers to both process and outcomes. Does the process through which energy-related decisions are made include intentional engagement with all potentially affected communities and a comprehensive analysis of potential impacts? These types of process components ideally lead to energy-related decisions and outcomes with a more equitable distribution of benefits and burdens. The following outcomes as central to energy equity in Oregon communities:

  • Traditionally underrepresented members of the public and community-based organizations effectively participating and engaging in decisions that shape their energy options.
  • Benefits from clean energy and energy assistance programs, in particular those that are publicly funded, accrue to all Oregonians, across all ethnicities and income levels.
  • Clean energy and energy assistance programs that increase access to the benefits of energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy by all Oregonians, across all ethnicities and income levels people.
  • Economic opportunities from clean energy and energy assistance programs are available to all Oregonians, across all ethnicities and income levels.
  • Clean energy and energy assistance programs that effectively overcome barriers that many people experience related to property ownership, income, credit scores, and inability to use tax credits.
  • Increased access to transportation options to reduce households’ reliance on vehicle ownership and transportation fuels for all Oregonians, across all ethnicities and income levels.

- State of Oregon Biennial Energy Review

Energy equity requires that all households and communities have reliable access to and can afford the quantity of energy needed to keep their homes and neighborhoods safe and healthy, to communicate and access information, and to have mobility to reach jobs, family, food and other necessities.

- Energy Infrastructure: Sources of Inequities and Policy Solutions for Improving Community Health and Wellbeing

Procedural equity: inclusive, accessible, authentic engagement and representation in process to develop or implement sustainability programs and policies.

Distributive equity: sustainability programs and policies result in fair distribution of benefits and burdens across all segments of a community, prioritizing those with highest need. 

Structural equity: sustainability decision-makers institutionalize accountability; decisions are made with a recognition of the historical, cultural, and institutional dynamics and structures that have routinely advantaged privileged groups in society and resulted in chronic, cumulative disadvantage for subordinated groups. 

Transgenerational equity: sustainability decisions consider generational impacts and don't result in unfair burdens on future generations. 

- Urban Sustainability Directors Network