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Prolonged Power Outages, Often Caused by Weather Events, Hit Some Parts of the U.S. Harder than Others

Published on May 16, 2023

Seattle City Light employees repairing a power line following a power outage
Image Credit: City of Seattle

A study published April 29 in the journal Nature Communications analyzed three years of power outages across the U.S., finding that Americans already bearing the brunt of climate change and health inequities are clustered in four regions — Louisiana, Arkansas, central Alabama and northern Michigan — and that they are most at risk of impact by a lengthy blackout.

The findings could help shape the future of local energy infrastructure, especially as climate change intensifies and the American power grid continues to age. Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act included billions of dollars to revamp energy systems. Joan Casey, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences and member of the research team, hopes federal agencies will consult the newly published findings to target energy upgrades. 

Incorporating a combination of socioeconomic and medical factors, Casey’s team identified communities that would likely be especially vulnerable during a long power outage. Using that data, the researchers were able to identify communities that experienced both high social vulnerability and frequent power outages.

“Any time we can identify another factor that we can intervene on to get closer to health equity, it’s exciting,” Casey said. “I think we’re going to see tremendous change, especially in the way our energy systems are set up, in the next couple decades. It’s this huge opportunity to get equity into every conversation and talk about what we’re going to do to make two decades from now look different from where we are.” 

Continue reading at UW News.

Originally written by Alden Woods for UW News.
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