Income and Power Equity: More is Worse

Vol 1., No. 2
March 8, 2023
Scott Clearwater, Gridmetrics, Inc.®

In this article, I will discuss the effects of income and power grid resilience using Gridmetrics power event data for 2022 and using US census income data. The error bars in the plots are the standard error of the mean. In the graph to the below, we see an increasing number of events with increasing income partitioned by median income decile. The red line is the best fit and implies:

Num_events(/sensor/day) = 1.015⨯10-7 ⨯ Median_income($) + 0.013  (R2 = 0.897)

What this data and relationship says is that the better off you are financially the worse your power quality is. So why do high earners have poorer power quality? One explanation is that higher income areas have higher demands on the grid for things like air-conditioning and EV charging which put additional strain on the local grid and create the conditions for poorer power performance.

Not only are the power outages higher for higher income areas, but also the voltage sags (under voltages) are more prevalent for higher incomes. Again, more energy intensity leads to poorer customer experience.

For Over Voltages, the results are different with the higher median incomes having fewer Over Voltages than lower median income areas. This is not surprising, since it is unlikely that an area would have excess under- and over-voltage conditions.

In the plot to the below we look at median income for the 5% highest and lowest event rates by zip code for five different Gridmetrics event types. In this case we see that higher incomes are associated with higher event rates, the exception being for severe high and low voltage states. This indicates that for higher incomes the grid bends but doesn’t break—as it seems to for the extreme voltage events. Put another way, for severe voltage changes (>25% up or down from reference) the lower median incomes are more affected than higher median incomes.

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