Living Cully Community Energy Plan Update

Prepared by Dat Huynh

Since 2016, it is recognized that high utility bills are burdens for low-income families, especially during the winter time in the Cully neighborhood. A recent study was done by Portland State University and the Energy Trust of Oregon presents that a household’s energy costs per square foot are likely increased with high diversity, low median household income, and older homes (Brodersen, 2017). In another study of energy cost in rental housing done by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, it shows that low-income renters have a significantly larger burden of energy cost comparing to high-income renters. The annual energy cost for renters who had income less than $15,000 was about 7 percent, while it was only about 2 percent of renters with incomes above $75,000 (Carliner, 2013). This was due to several reasons. One is from using low energy efficient appliances which require more energy to operate. Recognizing the problem, Living Cully has examined and identified strategies to make Cully neighborhood be more efficient and affordable for low-income people, and people of colors.

In partnership with local and regional organizations, such as Portland State University, the Energy Trust of Energy, and the City of Portland, Living Cully is in the process of developing the Living Cully Community Energy Plan. The Plan identifies community energy projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deploy new technologies while also reducing cost burdens and generating economic benefits for low-income people, people of color and neighborhood businesses.

In a historic occasion, the Multnomah County and the City of Portland committed to the goal of providing 100 percent of community energy needs with renewable power by 2050 (Oregonian, 2017). Having the support of the Resolution, the Plan also explores possibilities of using technology innovation and renewable energy generation.

Below are main goals of the Living Cully Community Plan:

  • Adapting methods to conserve energy and/or generate renewable energy
  • Creating new pathways to affordable housing for low-income people and people of color through energy investment and energy saving
  • Educating and empowering community members, especially youth to have access to energy related STEM education
  • Being able to replicate anti-poverty pilot programs that highlight connection between climate action and community benefits
  • Supporting adaptation of co-benefit energy policies into local and statewide climate strategies

To learn more about energy perspectives from community members, our staff attended events such as Living Cully Advisors meetings and Cully Housing Action Team meetings. During the events, we surveyed the participants on their methods to reduce energy consumption, increase energy efficiency, and different types of energy.

We have learned that the general community is aware of energy conservation, and take steps to save energy. Some suggestions from the community are turning off devices when not in use, opening windows so more lights come in, and upgrading heat pump system. Regarding solar energy, participants shared that they were afraid of its high costs, and challenges with the weather we have here in Portland. However, when asking about their interests in getting energy from solar, a majority of participants (nearly 90 percent) are interested. In addition, we also learn that participants were not familiar with different types of energy, especially renewable energy, and how to pick energy efficient appliances for their homes.

At this point, we are identifying potential pilot programs for the next two years, and surveying the community about energy usage. You should see Carolina and Dat attend community meetings throughout the summer time. If you see them, don’t be shy, stop by to say hi, and share with them your ideas or concerns about energy. For more information regarding the Living Cully Community Energy Plan, please feel free to email Carolina Iraheta ( or Dat Huynh (



Brodersen, R., Kimble, M., Schulte, D., & Sewell, T. (2017, March 21). Energy Efficiency Injustice in Portland: Electricity Usage Intensity Trends across Social Demographics[Scholarly project].

Carliner, M. (2013, December). Reducing Energy Costs in Rental Housing: The Need and the Potential. Retrieved August 2, 2017, from

Oregonian/OregonLive, T. S. (2017, June 01). Portland, Multnomah County set 100% renewable energy goal. Retrieved August 02, 2017, from

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