About the Project

Energy Burden was produced by students in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications’ Fall 2017 Environmental Journalism course.

The Team

Editor: Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Journalist in Residence in the College of Journalism and Communications, 352-376-4440, clbarnett@jou.ufl.edu.

Additional editing: Gary W. Green, Deputy News Editor and Digital Director; Norman P. Lewis, Professor of Journalism; and Matt Sheehan, Director of Stories and Emerging Platforms.

Web design: Andrew Briz

Maps: Kenny Anderson

Data analysis: Joan Meiners

Senior photographer and videographer: Drea Cornejo

Reporting, writing, graphics, photography and videography by:

  • Anna Elise Anderson
  • Kenny Anderson
  • Marliz Arteaga Gomez Garcia
  • Danielle Chanzes
  • Xueni Chen
  • Jason Crider
  • Jacqueline Curnick
  • Kyle Deschenes
  • Shujing Hu
  • Monica Humphries
  • Summer Jarro
  • Bailey LeFever
  • Xin Lu
  • Emily Mavrakis
  • Cecilia Mazanec
  • Joan Meiners
  • Amy Nelson
  • Ana-Katarina Stanic
  • Liana Zafran
  • Yi Zhang

Our Thanks

To the sources in these stories and the many others who provided expertise, insights, introductions, reports, records and more. Special thanks for the invaluable assistance of analysts Lynn Jarrett and Hal Knowles III of UF’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities. They spent hours in our classroom and around the clock, answering questions and helping us understand and analyze data. Thanks too to UF’s Wendell Porter; to the expert staff of the university’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies; to GRU’s Lauren Munsey and other staff members who provided records and answered months of questions; and to the team at the Community Weatherization Coalition and the many other advocates for the poor and energy conservation who assisted the student journalists. Most of all we would like to thank those residents struggling to pay their utility bills who were willing to share their stories.

How You Can Help

Long-term, by getting involved in the work to end Gainesville’s historic inequalities. Now, by volunteering with or donating to efforts that ease the energy burden, including: Community Weatherization CoalitionGainesville Community MinistryCatholic CharitiesAlachua Habitat for Humanity; or Gainesville Regional Utilities’ Project SHARE, whose donations offset bills of elderly and disabled customers facing financial hardship. Readers who want to help fund electrical updates for the Williams family that went two months without power and water after Hurricane Irma may contribute here.

Additional Reports

Florida Multifamily Efficiency Opportunities Study, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Energy.

Household Expenditures and Income, the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Improve Low-Income and Underserved Communities, the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

The Data

The data in this report come from Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) billing and consumption records, the U.S. Decennial Census, Alachua County Property Appraiser archives and American Community Survey responses. Public records analyzed also include GRU Hurricane Irma outage data; minimum housing code violations from the city’s Code Enforcement Division; and GRU solar-coverage data.

Public record data cleaning, plotting and analysis of storm power outage, solar coverage and city of Gainesville housing code violation data by Joan Meiners using R open source software and generalized linear models. Data, code and further details are available on Github.

The analysis of utilities costs and income, by UF’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities, includes GRU electricity, natural gas, water and wastewater. Utilities consumption data is aggregated from actual usage of all GRU residential accounts for 2015 and the costs are calculated using GRU’s rate structure in place Oct. 2016-Sept. 2017. The costs are not exact but calculated for each household as 12 times their average monthly usage of electricity, natural gas and water. Homes are grouped by Census block, with overall average income applied to the entire group.