Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Therese McCarty




solar panels, solar energy, fuel poor, low income, Vermont


In the United States today, at least 14 million Americans live in fuel poverty. These Americans spend at least ten percent of household income on energy costs ranging from fuel to electricity. The purpose of this thesis is to identify an innovative solution to mitigate the effects of the energy affordability crisis in the United States. After examining national trends and researching localized efforts, I determined that solar panels may be able to support the modern energy needs of the fuel poor. The study uses a least squares regression model with fixed effects to determine factors influencing solar adoption at the zip code level across the United States between 2010 and 2015. Following an analysis of the results, the regression residuals and the connection between income and solar installations are examined. The research finds the income, incentive programs, and the cost of electricity positively influences solar installations at the zip code level.

The idea for this thesis and the solution to lessen the impact of fuel poverty came from examining the efforts taking place in Rutland, Vermont. In the city, the local utility Green Mountain Power is initiating programs to weatherize and supply solar panels for the poor to create long-term energy independence and a more comfortable living environment.

The project recommends tax policies, grants, education, and initiatives taken by electric utilities as programs that can encourage lower income Americans to install solar panels and make their homes more energy efficient.