Inside the Black Box: Unequal Infrastructure and Institutional Bias in Energy Access
28 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2022
Date Written: October 24, 2022
Reliable energy access is more important than ever as a catalyst for health and economic success. Homes with more frequent or severe power outages have poorer access to heating and internet, an increasing necessity for education and work. We analyze two important factors of energy injustice: inequalities in energy infrastructure quality and biases in the utility power restoration process, which is currently a “black box” due to a lack of transparency. We make the innovation of web scraping outage data from live outage maps, which allows us to both pinpoint the exact location of individual outages and estimate the duration of each step in the power restoration process. We find that the racial and socioeconomic makeup of zip codes are significant predictors of power outage count. Economically disadvantaged and minority communities experience significantly more outages, suggesting inequities in the quality of infrastructure. We also find evidence of possible inconsistencies in the restoration processes of utilities. To combat energy injustice, we call for increased transparency in the energy grid and propose policy routes for government assistance.
Keywords: Energy Justice, Inequality, Resilience, Social Vulnerability
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