Fuel poverty in America and possible solutions to address it in the Texas colonias
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Communities across the United States have almost universal access to electricity services. However, there remains a large problem with fuel poverty, where households pay a significant and disproportionate amount of their gross income on energy bills. This is often a factor in those households’ continued poverty. Fuel poverty is especially prevalent in the unincorporated and often overlooked colonias communities in South Texas, near the border with Mexico, which are characterized by a high level of poverty, a large unbanked population that don’t have or are unapproved to have bank accounts, proportionally high energy costs, and substandard housing. There are government programs and charities that assist with bills, but the cycle of fuel poverty will continue without solutions that address the source of the disproportionately high bills: energy inefficiency. Public-private partnerships are needed to sustainably finance energy efficiency improvements and to break the cycle of poverty. One potential solution is the application of microfinance concepts geared solely at home efficiency improvements, where households can build credit while alleviating their home energy bill burden.