Energy Equity - Methodology & Data
03. Methodology + Data
The EEP working groups identified a universe of 148 potential energy equity metrics (shared below). Our goal was to evaluate a wide range of metrics and qualitative best practices across four dimensions of equity:
- Recognition – Who is vulnerable, who is privileged, and how?
- Procedural – Who is at the table and what voice and power do they have in influencing planning, decision making, and implementation?
- Distributional – Who bears the brunt of the burdens, and who benefits, and how?
- Restorative – How can we rectify past injustices caused by the energy system and prevent future harms?
We compiled scores and comments from more than 400 listening session participants and workgroup members to determine interest (or lack of) in each of the proposed datasets.
We assigned each metric to one of six categories:
- Included in the final EEP framework (data exists at the census tract level, nationally)
- Priority data gap
- Desire to create a rating scale based on qualitative assessment
- Shift to qualitative approach or best practice
- Abandon – limited or no potential due to spotty data, issues with geographic resolution or frequency of updating, or would require additional data procurement and manipulation
- Abandon – not an important reflection on energy equity
You can review a Google Sheet of our full metrics matrix, but here are some takeaways:
- Only 26 of the proposed 148 metrics will be included in the quantitative database and interactive map because of dataset limitations. This means that the vast majority (87%) of potential metrics do not currently lend themselves to rigorous and consistent quantitative measurement.
- Most of the metrics included are demographic and fall within the recognition dimension, followed by distributional metrics.
- No procedural and only one restorative metric (Community Power Score) was identified (revealing significant and challenging data gaps).
- For eight of the procedural measures, there is a desire to create a rating scale. These include concepts like the ability to access a range of programs regardless of income and occupancy status and PUC staff and commissioner representation. The restorative chapter focuses on guiding principles and qualitative best practices; it finds that metrics are not an appropriate way to assess or advance concepts like Indigenous sovereignty and reparations.
- 16 priority data gaps remain – these represent distributional metrics like the rate of shutoffs by utility and by demographic variables like race. Some of this data exists, but it is often unavailable to the public and there is not a comprehensive national dataset.
- We identified 27 proposed metrics that we reclassified as best practices. These were especially populated from the procedural dimension, where sharing of what works well could be accelerated.
- And finally, about a third of our proposed metrics were abandoned, either because they were not deemed of significant value by workgroup members or we see no future pathway to obtaining reliable and useful data.
Developing the interactive map
To co-develop our first Interactive Map, EEP partnered with Earthrise & shift7 (team: Dan Hammer, Susan Alzner, Mason Grimshaw, Megan Smith, Mikel Maron). EEP, Earthrise & shift7 engaged some Workgroup authors on the co-creation of the beta version features of the map. EEP also engaged with U of M faculty and graduate students who proposed new energy equity indices using our datasets.
A summary of their research is available in Appendix
A of the Framework report (available for download at www.energyequityproject.com). Faced with limited datasets, their thoughtful efforts helped us see that creating a standardized index will require significantly more community engagement and time to vet their proposed methodology.
We therefore turned our shared attention to empower exploration of individual datasets and the intersection of two datasets. The Interactive Map enables users to explore energy equity patterns at local, regional and national scales. We hope this work will support data investigations, stories and illustrations for positive change, such as improving development of policies, programs, and institutional structures that advance a more equitable energy future.
- Most data was obtained from government sources, such as the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA), and Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Additional publicly available data from non-governmental sources was integrated. These sources include ACEEE, Eviction Lab, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and Sheehan, Fisher and Colton. Two higher resolution datasets were obtained by personal request:
- Census tract data for the median income of households installing solar, from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and
- County-level home energy affordability gap data in CSV form, from Sheehan, Fisher, and Colton.
- Data is available for each of the 74,000 census tracts in the U.S (1,200 - 8,000 residents each) by clicking on the tract. Multiple variables can be assessed to identify communities with particular energy needs or concerns, such as communities with high energy burdens and a percentage of seniors living alone.
- Reliable, full coverage data that represents energy equity is limited.
- The recognition dimension of energy equity, which is concerned with community demographics, historical disparities, and energy insecurity, is the most represented, with 23 data sets.
- EEP identified six additional datasets, such as household energy burden, that align with the distributional dimension of energy equity.
- No national datasets for procedural equity are available and the Community Power Scorecard, a composite of 11 indicators related to energy democracy, is the only dataset that represents the restorative dimension. In the absence of data, these two workgroups offer an extensive set of qualitative best practices in the Framework for Advancing Energy Equity, which is available from the EEP Homepage
- Like other data visualization tools, the interactive map reflects a series of data gaps. Existing data collection tools have excluded Tribal Nations and other frontline communities from data collection and reporting. We are working to remedy this in the following ways:
- Contacting the relevant Tribal Offices and Programs to gather their data and offer opportunities to incorporate it in the EEP map.
- Connecting with on-the-ground organizations to understand and alleviate concerns around data sharing.
- Advocating at the federal and state levels for more inclusive data collection, reporting and transparency. In particular, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) included $33 million for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to remediate data gaps.
We would greatly appreciate your feedback on the Interactive Map!