Learn More on Energy Insecurity

Also known as energy poverty, fuel poverty, and energy vulnerability, energy insecurity is a multidimensional construct that is the interplay between household energy expenditures, the physical conditions of housing, and energy-related coping behaviors. Overall, energy insecurity is defined as the inability of a household to meet its basic heating, cooling, and energy needs over time.1

Additional Information

economic physical behavioral impacts photos

PhysicalHousing age, housing type, heating and cooling system, infrastructure quality, location, and climate
SocioeconomicLow income, sudden economic hardship, Inability to afford investments in better energy efficiency, systemic inequalities such as income, disability, and/or race
BehavioralCoping behaviors when facing energy insecurity, barrier of knowledge to energy conservation methods, barrier to education programs and investing/saving
Policy RelatedInaccessible or insufficient policies or programs relating to energy security

Why Energy Insecurity is Important to Address

Consequences of residential energy insecurity span from health to poverty. Especially in Maricopa County, an outcome is increased vulnerability to extreme heat. While 82% of indoor heat deaths had an A/C unit at the time of death, 69% of the A/C’s were non-functioning, and 31% were not in use, according to 2020 Maricopa County heat data. Energy insecurity often occurs in conjunction with food insecurity and housing insecurity - an outcome in which residents are more likely to remain in poverty. It can also catalyze residents into poverty and the potential for eviction by a landlord. Direct health consequences include the use of unsafe lighting and heating sources which may expose people to carbon monoxide and other unsafe conditions.

Maricopa County A/C Indoor Heat-Death Infographic 2018

Maricopa County Indoor and Outdoor Heat Deaths

Who is affected by energy insecurity & what are the communities/populations that are disproportionately affected?

  • Low-income: with older adults (65+), with disability, below 200% federal poverty line, with children
  • Black and Hispanic
  • Older adults (65+)
  • Low-income multifamily

chart of energy burdens across subgroups in Phoenix (income, race, age, tenure, housing type)

Energy burden is the percentage of income spent on residential energy bills and is a way for researchers to determine the pervasiveness of potential energy insecurity in communities. High energy burden is considered 6% and above of income spent on home energy bills annually, and severe energy burden is above 10%.


  1. Hernández, D. (2016). Understanding “energy insecurity” and why it matters to health. Social Science & Medicine, 167, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.08.029
  2. Drehobl, A., Ross, L., & Ayala, R. (n.d.). An Assessment of National and Metropolitan Energy Burden across the United States SEPTEMBER 2020 How High Are Household Energy Burdens? https://www.aceee.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/u2006.pdf