Oregon Energy Fund’s 2019 Power Gala is October 12th, 2019!

Oregon Energy Fund’s 2019 Power Gala is October 12th, 2019!

It’s our 30th birthday! Please join the Oregon Energy Fund at our 2019 Power Gala as we celebrate three decades of powering lives.

Our signature 1920s-themed event will be held on October 12th, 2019, at the Sentinel Hotel in downtown Portland. It will feature a cocktail hour, delicious Northwest cuisine, live and silent auctions, live music, a speakeasy photo booth, stories from OEF recipients, and more! Don’t forget to dress up in your finest Great Gatsby-era attire!

Proceeds from the event will support Oregon Energy Fund’s mission to strengthen household stability by assisting Oregonians in financial crisis with their energy bills.

Looking for tickets? Want to volunteer? Just curious for more information? Head over to OregonEnergyFund.org/PowerGala for details!

Hosted by Joe Vithayathil of KPTV FOX 12
Auctioneer: Misty Marquam of Marquam Auction Agency
Music by Smut City Jellyroll Society
Photo booth by InstaPix NW

Energy Assistance Helps Oregon Families Avoid Homelessness

Energy Assistance Helps Oregon Families Avoid Homelessness

Last year, Jennifer in Linn County abruptly lost her job. Jennifer is a single mom and relied on her salary to support her children. But when her company downsized, her position was eliminated, leaving her dangerously adrift.

Jennifer applied to job after job without success. Her savings and unemployment ran out. She fell behind on the bills, then the rent. She finally found work after months of looking – but her first check was still a month away, and her debts were critical. If she missed her rent or her bills just one more time, her family could lose their home.

For Jennifer, this story has a happy ending. After applying for help from Oregon Energy Fund, she received energy assistance that helped her catch up on her past-due bills. But those funds didn’t just keep the lights on. They also meant that she could devote the last of her savings to the rent – rescuing her family from the looming threat of eviction and homelessness.

Jennifer’s story is far too common. Around 433,000 Oregon households, or 1 in 4, struggle to pay their energy bills each year, a condition known as utility hardship. In some areas, utility hardship affects more low-income families than any other condition of poverty, including unemployment or falling behind on the rent. Some families spend up to 40% of their income on their bills.

This year, we’re working to better understand utility hardship: who it affects, what its consequences are. Our research has found that falling behind on the bills often has a snowball effect. Thousands of households cut back on meals or medicine to try and catch up, leading to illness and malnutrition. Many turn to payday loans or other predatory lenders.

And nearly 25% of respondents to a national energy assistance survey became homeless because of their energy bills.

Image of two charts. The top chart shows "Top 10 Most Common Conditions of Poverty Experienced." The top reason is "Falling behind on utility bills/no heat," with 55.7% of All Respondents, 52.4% of Children Under 5, 47.2% of Seniors, and 54.1% of Working. Other conditions include Trouble saving money for emergencies, unemployment, and increase in rent. The second chart shows "Top 10 Most Common Resource Priorities to Feel Stable and Secure." The top reason is "Affordable Utility Bills," 43.5% of All respondents, 57.7% of Seniors, and 40.4% of Working. Other priorities include Affordable Housing, Improving Credit, and Access to Dental Care.

We’ve also found that energy assistance effectively prevents  families from hitting bottom. A recent study by the Community Action Organization of Beaverton found that “affordable utility bills” was the top priority for people in poverty. Energy assistance is also less costly than many remedial social programs, and keeps at-risk families in their homes as they stabilize.

As we mark our 30th anniversary and look ahead to the future, we’re exploring ways to engage with the important issues in our community. Across Oregon, more than 150,000 households are on the brink on homelessness – people like Jennifer and her family. With your help, Oregon Energy Fund can keep them healthy, safe, and housed – and prevent the homeless of tomorrow from ever reaching that point.

Will you help us prevent homelessness?

Please Give Now!

OEF Receives 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation

OEF Receives 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award for Innovation

Oregon Energy Fund has been named a recipient of the 2019 Victorine Q. Adams Award, a national award for innovation and exemplary achievement in the field of energy assistance.

The Victorine Q. Adams Award is given by the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) and recognizes “a nonprofit organization that displays an innovative spirit towards raising public awareness and generating financial aid for people in need of energy assistance.”

OEF received the award for our Senior Discount Pilot Program, which provides recurring energy assistance to homebound seniors. A groundbreaking collaboration with Meals on Wheels People and Portland General Electric, this program allows MoWP clients who are already receiving meal deliveries to sign up for monthly energy assistance in their homes, eliminating the need to travel or take personal documents out of the home. 

This year’s award was presented at the annual NEUAC conference in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 4. Deputy Director Marietta Doney and Board of Directors member Tyler Richardson accepted the award on behalf of OEF.

NEUAC Executive Director Katrina Metzler, who presented the award, said, “The Senior Discount Program reduces barriers to receiving assistance, makes funds more accessible to an often-overlooked population, and ensures seniors on fixed incomes have more money to spare for necessities like food, rent, and medication.” (Click here to read more about the Senior Discount Program.)

This is the second time OEF has been recognized with the Victorine Q. Adams Award. We previously received the award in 2008 for our Oil Recycling Program, which converts donated oil from homes and businesses into funds for energy assistance. Other past recipients include Dollar Energy Fund, HeatShare Human Services of New York, and NJ SHARES.

We here at OEF are extremely grateful to NEUAC for recognizing our work, and are honored to be recognized in this way. We would especially like to thank Meyer Memorial Trust, whose generous financial support has made this pilot program possible. We look forward to finding new ways to help our fellow Oregonians meet their energy needs.


Want to help us create more local funds like the Senior Discount Program?

Support Our Work With a Donation

Patsy’s Story: Family or Energy?

Patsy’s Story: Family or Energy?

What would you do if you had to choose between feeding a loved one and paying the energy bill? Each year, more than 400,000 Oregon families face this question – people like Patsy, a recent OEF recipient.

Patsy is a senior who lives in Multnomah County and relies on in-home oxygen to breathe. Patsy’s husband is in a care facility, and while she’s generally able to squeeze by, she has very little money left over each month for groceries and other expenses.

Last year, Patsy unexpectedly had to take in her young grandson, a life change that stretched her limited budget to the breaking point. She not only needed to buy extra groceries to feed a growing boy. Her energy bill also increased with her grandson’s needs, causing her to fall behind on her bill payments.

Patsy didn’t qualify for state or federal assistance. So she reached out to Oregon Energy Fund, where we were able to get her caught up on her bill, and pointed Patsy towards additional support programs that would prevent her from falling behind in the future.

Stories from seniors like Patsy are all too common, and one of the reasons we launched our new Senior Discount Pilot Program. This program is a collaboration with Meals on Wheels People that provides monthly energy assistance to Portland-area seniors. One-time assistance is invaluable for folks who are already in a tight situation and need a hand getting back on their feet. But for seniors whose tight budgets leave them especially vulnerable to falling behind, recurring assistance can prevent them from reaching the crisis point of having to choose between heat, rent, and food.

30 Years of Powering Lives

30 Years of Powering Lives

On October 19, 1989, a group of civic leaders met at Pacific Power in downtown Portland. Among them were representatives from Portland General Electric, the Oregon Department of Energy, Northwest Natural, and then-Governor Victor Atiyeh.

Their goal: to create a statewide, not for profit organization that would help low-income Oregonians “manage their energy needs.”

The group first adopted the name Oregon Energy Services, Inc., before settling on Oregon H.E.A.T. (Home Energy Assistance Team). In addition to being the only statewide nonprofit dedicated to energy assistance, Oregon H.E.A.T. would have a unique format.

Image of three logos, moving from Oregon Heat to Heat Oregon to Oregon Energy Fund. The text at the top reads "1989 - 2019: Our look through the years"

The organization would collaborate with local community service agencies around the state, who would then “provide energy counseling, weatherization, bill payment assistance, and referral and advocacy for other types of assistance,” according to Colleen Bennett, the first Executive Director.

In its first year of fundraising, Oregon H.E.A.T. raised more than $500,000 in donations. Three decades later, as we prepare to celebrate our 30th anniversary, we’ve raised more than $35 million and provided energy assistance to nearly 300,000 people across the state, thanks to the help of supporters like you.

Our name and logo may have changed, but our mission has always stayed the same: to help Oregonians keep their power on in times of crisis.

We’re proud of our service to our community over the last 30 years, and grateful to our supportive family of friends and donors across the state.

We hope you’ll join us in the coming months as we look back on 30 years of compassion, collaboration, and innovation – and look ahead to the next 30.

New Data Shines a Light on Oregon’s Energy Burden

New Data Shines a Light on Oregon’s Energy Burden

The number of energy burdened homes in Oregon declined slightly in 2018, according to new data provided by the Home Energy Affordability Gap (HEAG) and the United States Census.

Around 433,000 Oregon households spent 6% of their income or higher on their energy bills last year, according to HEAG, an annual study that calculates the affordability of US energy bills. This is down slightly from 2017, when HEAG estimated there were approximately 441,000 severely energy burdened households in the state.

Promisingly, the number of energy burdened households dropped as the total number of households rose from 1,545,745 to 1,571,631. However, this still suggests more than 27% of Oregonians struggle to pay their energy bills, confirming utility hardship as a silent and pervasive crisis across our state.

OEF compared HEAG’s calculations to data from the U.S. Census to gain a closer understanding of our state’s home energy gap and where to direct resources.

Oregon’s energy burden is felt most fiercely in its rural counties. Malheur County is the most energy burdened county in the state, with 48.81% of all households facing a severe energy burden. The next highest-burdened counties are Lake County (48%), Wheeler County (46.23%), Harney County (44.10%), and Crook County (43.82%). Meanwhile, Multnomah County has the highest number of energy burdened homes (79,492), followed by Lane County (54,271) and Washington County (37,170), though their large populations mean the overall percentages are lower.

The data also shows how a home energy burden impacts households on all economic levels. The lowest income households spend the most on energy – up to 38% of their income in some instances. These homes experience an annual shortfall of more than $2,200. However, even some households whose income lies within 200% of the poverty line have an energy burden of nearly 8%, and come up $640 short each year. Oregon’s total shortfall from its collective energy burden is nearly $350 billion.

These numbers support studies showing that low-income households and households in rural areas are more likely to be energy burdened and face a higher energy burden than the average household. (The average US energy burden is 3.5%.)

They also underscore how great the need is for energy assistance. According to Oregon Housing and Community Services, LIHEAP & OEAP were able to serve 73,763 households in 2017 before funding ran out – just 17% of households in need.

Without assistance, energy burdened households are forced to make terrible decisions. 1 in 5 American households report cutting back on food, rent, or medicine to pay for energy, while thousands resort to payday loans or other predatory forms of lending. 23% of respondents to the National Energy Assistance Survey said they either became homeless or moved in with friends or family because of energy costs – a particularly alarming fact given a recent study that found 156,000 Oregon households on the brink of homelessness. Now, more than ever, we must work together to support our neighbors in need.

For more information about Oregon’s energy gap or HEAG’s calculations, click here. If you are in need of energy assistance, please click here.

Oregon Energy Fund Announces Partnerships with IRCO, NAYA, & Latino Network

Oregon Energy Fund Announces Partnerships with IRCO, NAYA, & Latino Network

Oregon Energy Fund is proud to announce that it has partnered with three new Portland-area organizations to provide increased energy assistance to communities of color. The three agencies are the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Latino Network, and the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA).

These partnerships are part of a larger equity effort to make our services more accessible to those communities who have traditionally faced systemic hurdles to achieving financial stability and/or receiving support. Studies show that people of color are more likely to be energy burdened and face an energy burden up to 64% greater than white households, in part because a higher percentage of people of color live in poverty. By working with leaders within these communities, OEF is committed to addressing this disparity and ensuring that our energy assistance funds benefit as many Oregonians as possible.

Please scroll down for descriptions of the three organizations and the communities they serve. If you would like to donate in support of these programs, please click here. If you are in need of energy assistance, please click here.


Image of a smiling brown-skinned boy in a white t-shirt.

Photo credit: IRCO


Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)

The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) serves the holistic needs of immigrants, refugees, and mainstream community members in Oregon and SW Washington. As a community-based organization, IRCO empowers children, youth, families and elders from around the world to build new lives and become self-sufficient by providing more than 200 culturally and linguistically specific social services.

Oregon has one of the fastest growing refugee and immigrant populations in the country. Forced to leave their home countries for fear of persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, refugees and immigrants come to Portland to begin new lives. IRCO focuses on removing barriers to self-sufficiency and helps individuals and families thrive by providing more than 200 culturally and linguistically specific social services, from employment, vocational training and English language learning, to community development, early childhood and parenting education, youth academic support and gang prevention.


Image of a group of smiling Hispanic women.

Photo credit: Latino Network


Latino Network

Latino Network is a Latino-led education organization, grounded in culturally-specific practices and services, that lifts up youth and families to reach their full potential.  Their work springs from the core belief in Latino community self-determination—that is, the ability of community members to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their families.

Latino Network was founded in 1996 by community leaders who grew concerned about the lack of adequate resources to meet the needs of the growing Latino community. Since that time, they have evolved to become an organization that also encompasses transformational programs aimed at educating and empowering Multnomah County Latinos. Low achievement scores, youth violence and high drop out rates undermine the Latino community’s potential. Latino Network addresses these issues by promoting early literacy, encouraging parent involvement, working with gang-involved and adjudicated youth and families, and providing academic support and activities to high school aged youth. They also build leadership capacity for youth and adults.


Image of a young Native girl wearing traditional tribal dress, seen from behind.

Photo credit: NAYA


Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA)

The Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) is a vibrant hub that provides cultural programs and services for Portland’s 40,000 Native people.

Guided by its elders and trusted by the community, NAYA creates a place for Native people to gather together and live the values of their own unique cultures. When the Native community thrives, so does the entire Portland region. NAYA offers a wide array of comprehensive services and community-based solutions, including lifelong educational opportunities, cultural identity, leadership development, elders support, homes for families, early childhood programs, and paths to financial security based on traditional tribal values. NAYA is committed to eliminating poverty, hunger, family violence, and homelessness.

This past year, NAYA programs impacted 10,000 people in the Portland region, including 944 youth participating in culturally-specific programs, college and career services and homeless youth supports. Thirteen students graduated with diplomas from NAYA’s alternative high school, the Early College Academy. 802 families received housing and energy assistance, and more than 40 families received critical home repair so they could remain in their homes.


10 Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill Right Now

10 Ways to Save on Your Electric Bill Right Now

If you’ve ever worried about having enough money to pay your energy bill, you’re not alone. Nearly 39 million American households – or 1 in 3 – struggle to pay for electricity each year, while 25 million sacrifice food or medicine to cover the bills. And as the weather grows more extreme and our daily lives depend ever more on electronics, it’s become harder and harder to find ways to save on the monthly electric bill.

If possible, upgrading to energy efficient appliances or conducting a home energy audit are the best ways to reduce your electric bill in the long-term. But what if you need to lower your bill now? Fortunately, there are a number of easy – and cheap – ways you can cut back on your home energy use today. Scroll down for 10 quick energy-saving tips.


Image of a wall thermostat.

1) Set your thermostat to 68 degrees in the winter.

In cold weather, the cost of heating your home increases by 3% for every degree over 68. To keep your electric bills down, set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re at home and lower it by around 10 degrees when you’re away or sleeping. This can lower your bill by $83 a year.


Image of a person holding a stack of folded blankets and sweaters.

2) Wash your laundry with cold water.

90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes toward heating the water. Washing your clothes with cold water can save you up to $200 a year on your electric bill.


Image of a person plugging in a cord to a power strip.

3) Use power strips for electronics & unplug when not in use.

Electronics consume a shocking amount of energy, even when they’re turned off or done charging. Cut down on phantom loads by plugging TVs, phones, laptops, chargers, and even coffee makers into smart power strips and unplugging them when not in use.


Image of a hand screwing in a bulb to a ceiling lamp.

4) Switch to LED lightbulbs.

Turning off lights in your home is an easy way to save electricity. But what about when the lights are on? Studies show that installing LED lightbulbs can save you up to $100 a year on your utility bill – and they last longer than incandescent or halogen bulbs, too!


Image of a ceiling fan with four lights.

5) Use your ceiling fan year-round.

Ceiling fans are a cheap way to stay cool in the summer, and they can also keep you warm in the colder months! By reversing your fan to spin clockwise, the fan pushes warm air down, making you more comfortable in the winter. This can save you up to 15% on your electric bill.


Image of a sunny window with draping curtains.

6) Install curtains on your windows and know when to use them.

A home loses about 30% of its heat through its windows. To solve this, install curtains or window shades and keep them closed at night to help with insulation. During the day, turn down the thermostat and open the curtains to allow the sun to naturally heat the room.


Image of a smiling family reaching into a box of donuts.

7) Minimize electricity use during peak hours.

Many utility companies, including Portland General Electric and Pacific Power, offer lower electricity rates during the day or late at night. Take advantage of these off-hours by running large appliances like your washing machine or dishwasher at these times.


Image of water running from a faucet.

8) Adjust the temperature on your water heater.

Most water heaters come preset at 140 degrees. The Department of Energy recommends that you lower it to 120 degrees. This can save you up to 10% on your electric bill.


Image of a black and white cat sleeping on top of a floor vent.

9) Keep your heaters and vents clean and dust-free.

Heating systems are less energy efficient and have to work harder when they’re dirty. If you have baseboard heaters, keep the surface and coils free of dust. If you have central heating, wipe out the vents and make sure they’re open.


Image of a key chain with four keys and a small wooden house.

10) Enroll in a Home Weatherization Assistance Program.

Many local organizations offer weatherization and energy conservation programs to help make your home more energy efficient and reduce your electric bill. These programs will teach you how to seal your windows and doors to avoid cold-air leaks, DIY insulation tips, and furnace and water heater upkeep. Some organizations also provide in-home weatherization services for seniors and people with disabilities.

To enroll in a home weatherization program, visit the Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) or the Community Energy Project, or find your local agency here.

Still need help paying your electric bill?
Visit our energy assistance page to learn how to get emergency energy assistance in your area.

Utility Bill Assistance Available for Federal Workers During the 2019 Shutdown

Utility Bill Assistance Available for Federal Workers During the 2019 Shutdown

Oregon Energy Fund has always believed that no one should have to choose between paying the electric bill and feeding their family, especially in the cold days of winter. As thousands of Oregonians face the unexpected loss of a paycheck this month, it is important that federal employees and contractors know they likely qualify for emergency funding from OEF to help pay their utility bills.

OEF distributes funds for energy assistance to 30+ partner agencies across the state, ensuring that Oregonians in financial crisis can keep the lights on without skipping meals or missing rent. If you or someone you know are affected by the shutdown and are worried about making ends meet, we encourage you to visit OregonEnergyFund.org/Energy-Assistance or call 971-386-2124 to see which of our partner agencies are in your area and how to get help.

Click here for our full statement, or continue reading below.

Image of OEF Statement Regarding Current Government Shutdown, dated January 14, 2019.