Big Data Reveals The Inconvenient Truth About The Uncool Energy Burdens Of  Rural North Carolina

WASHINGTON, DC, June 17, 2022 —According to research led by Groundswell Vice President of Labs and Data Science Dr. Elvis Moleka, low and moderate-income households in North Carolina spend 19.8% or their income on energy bills — an uncool and unequal energy burden. In A Call to Action: Analyzing Rural Energy Burdens In North Carolina, Dr. Moleka shares why some North Carolina households face far higher energy burdens than others, resulting in an unjust reality for underpaid and unemployed rural North Carolina. 

North Carolina households living at 50% of the Federal Poverty Level pay an average of 32.8% of their income for energy. These same households pay five times as much of their income for energy as North Carolina households earning $55,500 or more per year. Moleka's research revealed that rural counties across North Carolina carry the heaviest energy burdens across all income brackets — driven by rural poverty, unemployment, and the prevalence of older, less energy efficient rental housing. 

This data revealed some hard truths, and Groundswell CEO Michelle Moore recognized the results as a call of action in rural communities. Under Moore’s leadership, Groundswell recently partnered with local leaders to establish a program designed to address some of the root causes of high energy burdens in rural communities. This program, titled the Save on Utilities Long term (SOUL), was piloted in Moore’s hometown of LaGrange, Georgia. The SOUL program reduces participants’ utility bills through energy efficiency upgrades funded using a Pay As You Save (PAYS®) approach. SOUL connects low and moderate-income households with cost-saving, energy efficiency improvements then uses a portion of participants’ energy bill savings to cover the cost of the improvements 

“Up to now, big cities have gotten most of the attention and most of the investment in clean energy, but when we look at the data, we see that rural communities have the greatest needs.” Moore commented, “This research is a call to action for rural America, and a challenge to build affordable, clean, and efficient energy futures that help small towns thrive.” 

Groundswell is applying the findings from Dr. Moleka’s most recent report to further refine the SOUL program while looking for new ways to use these findings to serve subscribers to lower energy costs at home first and establish a template that can be used to build energy equity in rural America, one household at a time. 

About Groundswell 

Groundswell is a 501c3 nonprofit that builds community power through equitable community solar projects and resilience centers, clean energy programs that reduce energy burdens, and pioneering research initiatives that help light the way to clean energy futures for all. Groundswell leads clean energy programs and projects in five states,

serving more than 5,500 income-qualified customers with more than $2.75 million per year in clean energy savings. Learn more at or @grndswell. 

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