Energy insecurity, or the inability of a household to reach its basic needs, impacts more people than you might think. I spent many years as a single mother, struggling to get through college and pay my bills, on an often unreliable income. Perhaps my experience has led me to be hyper-aware, but we all can and should care about energy insecurity.

If this winter’s weather conforms to seasonal averages, the Energy Information Administration predicted last month that home heating oil bills will be up 39 percent over last year. Natural gas bills should be 26 percent higher than a year ago, and electricity 6 percent.

For people already struggling with paying their bills, this is most unwelcome news. And if you live in the Northeast like I do, you know that temperatures are dropping into single digits, meaning for hundreds of thousands of energy customers, real panic is setting in.

Utilities are required to have some sort of low income assistance program, and if that was all we ever needed I wouldn’t be writing this today.

Energy costs disproportionately impact low income households.

A recent story out of the UK is a prime example of the gap between people who need assistance with the energy bills and the companies that produce that energy.

British-based OVO Energy sent out a blog post to their customers with energy saving tips for frigid winters, like eating a warm bowl of oatmeal, doing star jumps, or cuddling your pet. This blog post was impressive in the amount of people they were able to offend in one fell swoop, but unfortunately it’s not a stand-alone occurrence. Energy companies and energy supply companies have long struggled to compassionately and effectively deal with low to moderate income customers.

As Badar Khan, president of northeast utility National Grid, wrote in an article for Zpryme Insights, “Personal income shouldn’t dictate whether someone has access to the benefits of electric transportation, like cleaner air.”

And it doesn’t just impact people’s wallets. Energy insecurity can impact health in a multitude of ways. Studies on energy insecurity encompass not only direct but also indirect health impacts because they consider social determinants of health and the coping strategies people use in response to energy insecurity. Inadequate household energy has been linked to the following health outcomes for both adults and children: cardiovascular, pulmonary, and respiratory illnesses; cancer; arthritis; acute hospitalization; excess mortality in summer and winter; and anxiety, depression, and stress.

One of the reasons I’m so proud to work with Gridmates is that it gives not just utilities, but any customer-serving organization, an opportunity to harness the power of good, combine it with smart donations, and translate it into quick and effective energy assistance for people who need it most.

As colder weather sets in, energy prices continue to rise, and people continue to struggle, let’s all strive to find ways to be a part of the solution, be it donating to a cause or helping to drive awareness of energy security as an issue. We might not be able to solve every energy issue today, but we can all take small steps to help.