Expert Interviews

Gannon Long   

Gannon Long is a policy and public affairs director at operation fuel. We learned a lot during this interview about big corporations and their interactions with Hartford citizens.   

“Don’t use a straw, save plastic. Its like okay I’m one person, I go out to eat once a week, I use one plastic straw, that’s not great, but I’m certainly no chemical company that’s.. you know.. me and my straw aren’t the mounds of plastic in the ocean.” 

Long said, referring to the emphasis that is placed on the individual to fix a systemic problem that is at the fault of a bigger structure and can’t be placed on the individual. Like with energy burden, can’t have the individual do something to fix it, because that doesn’t fix the problem of why it is occurring.  

Amy McLean  

Amy McLean is a senior policy advocate and Connecticut director at Acadia Center. We talked about the energy burden in Connecticut, what it is, and in her opinion why it occurs.  

“Presently there is about 23% of the homes that are eligible for home assessment services, but don’t get them because of health and safety barriers.” 

McLean is referring to the fact that energy services won’t come in to fix your heater, for example, if your home has mold in it. This means that apartments or homes that had preexisting bad conditions can’t be cared for because they are deemed “unsafe”. Money for helping the energy burden can’t even be used in homes.  

Diamond Spratling   

Diamond Spratling is a GEM project manager at Greenlink Analytics. Greenlink Analytics takes data from around of the US on Energy Burden and displays it in maps showing data from power outages, to shut offs, to just rates of energy burden in general across the nation. 

“I think one thing that I noticed is that it can’t just be a policy or an initiative to improve weatherization in our homes, and things like that is much deeper than that. It’s about the income that we see the differences in the income level, but also the age of our house is the condition that the houses are in.” 

When Spratling was asked about the policy side of energy burden, and different challenges they have run into with that, this is what they said. They are mentioning a crucial point about the age of the homes and how policies to fix energy burden are not applicable to all homes and not able to equally solve the energy burden issues. For example, one house could have a heater where another house might not have a place in the windowsill to put it in. Slight differences like this end up making a world of a difference in the grand scheme of energy burden. 

Niel Beup  

Neil Beup is the head of global government affairs at Linde. Neil told us what energy burden meant to him and we discussed the lack of care the government seemed to have towards making programs for energy burden. Additionally, he talked about some of the programs that Linde is doing to work towards addressing energy burden. 

“The landlord doesn’t really care because they are not the one paying the energy bill, and the tenant doesn’t want to invest the money into a structure they don’t own, and so one of the challenges you have there is that a lot of our energy burden programs require some resource from the recipient of the funds… I mean our low income comes require a little less of that.” 

Beup is discussing the conflict between property owner (landlord) and tenant. The property owner does not want to put money into the energy efficiency of an apartment, because it does not really affect them, they still have people living there and are making an income. And the tenant does not want to put money into helping the apartment because they do not own it and may also not have the funds to keep it up. Also, they may not be allowed to add anything to the apartment heating wise because it is not their property.  

Michael Uhl  

Michael Uhl is the president of System Smart. System Smart is a private tech contractor company. This company serves the whole state in a program called “My Heart My Home” which serves to landlords. This was the first take we really got from the landlord side, rather than the tenant side. 

“Specific to Hartford, we were paying attention to it, not so much as at the macro scale, but at the individual level. And so, in our role, we work directly with the customer to understand their options, and most of those are income eligible.”  

Uhl talks about how their company focuses on the individual. It is interesting because most of the other companies do not, but the one from works from the landlord’s perspective does. Furthermore, the company works with individuals to see how they can address their own energy burden. Some advice includes switching from propane to an electrified version, and other advice that might decrease their own energy burden. This company works with the individual, but not on a larger scale. 

DEEP (Dino, Kate, and Ashley)  

DEEP or Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. They talked to us about their programs and government programs in general that work to address energy burden, and the complicity behind them. 

“If got the point that I was going to add there but let me get into the barriers to accessing energy assistance programs, I would say that the largest barrier to accessing the programs is that the scheme, the framework is pretty complicated.” 

The framework for getting into the programs that address energy burden is complicated. When we talked to one participant, Doreen, they talked about how the companies want to know every transaction you make, cash App, grocery store, everything, to see if you really do need help. During this time, Doreen explained that a lot of people tell others to not cash App them so that companies don’t see this and call it a “second source of income” and then not help them. 

Kamora Herrington 

Kamora Herrington runs an organization called Cameras Cultural Corner. They work with the community to identify problems that are occurring. Herrington’s goal is not to fix the problem, but to state it clearly so that it is known. 

” Ways to support them in in addressing energy inequity and all these ways, right? But none of this comes down to the person who’s living in that place. None of it comes down to the renter. So Hartford, I think we’re ninety something percent renters.” 

Herrington talks about a problem that we have discussed with other experts throughout interviews. The energy burden seems to boil down to the blame that the system places on the individual. Even though the phenomenon of energy burden is systematic, every policy always addresses what an individual should do rather than what can be shifted in the system to help energy burden, and positively affect the individual. 

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