By Zachary Maresh
For many Huntsville residents, when you woke up this morning, you flipped on a light switch without a second thought. You took a nice hot shower, got your morning coffee, made breakfast, then started your work day. In the afternoon, your air conditioning kicked on automatically, providing a cool home for you and your family.
Your work computer powered up – no worries there. After your long work day, you enjoy some Netflix, maybe with some popcorn, and dinner. This was all made possible by energy, whether electric, natural gas, or propane. But for too many Huntsville residents, energy is a luxury they simply can’t afford.
You’ve earned the energy you use, no doubt about it. And while you see higher bills in the Summer, and Winter, you’re able to pay them. But too many Huntsville residents juggle paying their energy bill and food, energy bill and needed medications, energy bill and clothing, energy bill and rent or mortgage payment. What is the problem, and what is the solution?
The problem is that energy is wasted, and the cost of providing you that energy continues to rise every year due to inflation, aging infrastructure, geopolitics, and subsidies that enrich those at the top. You’ve heard of the California fires and PG&E, the Texas freeze and ERCOT, and calls for going green nationally by our current administration. All of these events have a cost, and when it comes to energy, you are the ones paying for it.
In Huntsville, too many residents don’t have air conditioning. Air conditioning is a luxury for those who can afford it, while the rest are left to heat exhaustion. Many public housing developments do not provide reliable air conditioning for this very reason: It is too expensive.
Even reliable electricity is problematic for many Huntsville residents. For those that can afford it, Huntsville households with income less than $20,000 per year pay up to 50% of their income in energy bills, based on an all-too common cost ranging from $200-$400 per month. Energy poverty is very real, and it is time to solve this problem.
What is the solution? The solution is using our energy more efficiently instead of wasting it. Right here in Huntsville, we are starting an effort to improve energy efficiency with a project called EnergyCares. EnergyCares is an initiative by Retcon Energy, LLC to provide common-sense solutions that lower energy use and cost. It starts with getting the energy data necessary to uncover the sources of energy waste, and then continues with low-cost solutions to lower that waste.
This is not about a hand-out, but a hand-up. A hand-up to a better life made possible by the wonders of energy, and energy efficiency. A hand-up to stronger, more resilient communities. A hand-up to a stronger local economy in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. And a hand-up to a brighter future for all of Huntsville. We will not stop until every Huntsville resident can enjoy the luxury, and necessity, of energy.
I call for support by our local leaders, from businesses, non-profit organizations, neighbors, and many talented engineers in solving this energy poverty problem. This problem may seem insurmountable, and energy costs may seem inevitable. But when we combine our resources, talent, and vision, there is nothing that Huntsville can’t accomplish.
The time has come to enable all Huntsville residents to have air conditioning, all Huntsville residents to enjoy energy savings, and all Huntsville residents to keep more of their hard-earned money in their wallets.
It is time to engage the collective engineering and community spirit of Huntsville in solving the energy poverty problem. Doing so strengthens our communities, invigorates the economy, creates thousands of jobs, and provides a bright future for our great city.
We were once pioneers in the race to the Moon. There is a new race, one that will transform the very fabric of our city, country, and Earth: The race to solve the energy poverty problem. Let us be leaders in this effort, and once again, show the world how’s it’s done in Huntsville.