Low-income households in California are more likely to have their electricity cut off after warmer temperatures drive up their power bills, concludes a new study in the journal Nature Energy.
“Rising temperatures and more frequent, hotter heat waves result in higher energy expenses,” Axios explains. “That becomes a crisis for households that can’t afford them—and makes socio-economic divides even worse for some of the communities hit hardest by climate change.”
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For nearly 300,000 low-income households across the state, an average utility bill of US$100 increased 1.6% for each day when the high temperature hit 95°F/35°C, and $2.92 for each day above 100°F/37.8°C, the study found, based on a review of power costs between 2012 to 2017.
Those expenses added up when heat waves brought multiple days in a row with higher temperatures. The result was an average 1.2% increase in power cutoffs, about two or three months after utility bills were due.
“This is adding to the tax of being poor,” said study co-author Alan Barreca, an economist and professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “I think a lot of people who haven’t been poor would say, ‘Oh, that doesn’t seem like much,'” but the cost is “significant” for anyone living paycheque to paycheque.
“This is suggesting with hotter summers into the future, falls are going to become financially more precarious, as people are hit with their high energy bills from the summer months and they’re overdue, and that those months are going to be a lot harder on families,” he told Axios.