Download the WREG news and weather apps today

Research: Some Memphians pay double the national average on utilities

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Whether you rent or own an apartment or home, most likely a portion of your hard-earned cash is going toward your utilities.

"I just know it's a conversation that is a timely conversation for every citizen in Memphis," said City Council member Patrice Robinson.

On Tuesday, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy presented their recent findings to Memphis City Council members.

"When we did the study we found that in a lot of areas of the country that have lower utility rates the burdens were actually higher."

Research found Memphians and those in the metropolitan area bear one of the highest energy burdens in the country.
That means we're shelling out a higher percentage of our paychecks on our energy bills.

Research by the non-profit said on average low-income families in the Memphis metro area spend 13 percent of their income on utilities. That's almost double the national average.

Even Memphians with average incomes feel the pain. They too spend almost double the percentage of their checks on utilities as the rest of the country.

Lavern Givens lives in South Memphis in one of the areas with older homes. Older homes tend to have poor insulation and sealing for windows and doors which are all contributors to a higher energy burden.

Of course, behavioral and economic factors matter too.

"Our rates are the lowest combined utility rates of any major city in the county and it just so happens that our city has a lot of people with a very low income," said Jerry Collins, President of MLGW.

Givens said she's seen people, especially those on fixed incomes, struggle to pay their bills.

"They need to do something about it for real."

City leaders and  Collins said they're trying.

"One of the things we need to do is improve quality of housing stock especially rental property. We are actively pursuing,  going after millions of dollars worth of grants that would make energy efficient improvement to low and middle income housing."