Racist power cuts? Minorities in Texas more likely to have blackouts

Areas mostly inhabited by people of white background had an 11% chance of suffering an outage compared to a 47% chance in high minority share areas, according to a new report

The Big Zero report

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Texan residents from ethnic backgrounds suffered four times more power outages during the recent rolling blackouts that hit the state.

That’s one of the findings of a new analysis published by the Electricity Growth and Use in Developing Economies (e-Guide) Initiative, which estimates areas mostly inhabited by people of white background had an 11% chance of suffering an outage compared to a 47% chance in high minority share areas.

The Initiative, a grantee of the Rockefeller Foundation and a collaboration between multiple academics and organisations, used satellite imagery of night-time lights to track changes in lighting before, during and after the winter storm to indicate where blackouts had occurred and correlated them to census demographic data.

The authors of the report suggest income status of areas does not correlate strongly with a certain rate of blackouts.

They also note critical facilities, such as hospitals, police, and water and wastewater treatment facilities made blackouts less likely.

Jay Taneja of UMass Amherst’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Initiative Lead, said: “Though the analysis does not tell us why differences in blackouts arise, the end result, that already-vulnerable populations endure more widespread blackouts, is tragic and unacceptable.

“While innovative datasets using satellite imagery can highlight this inequity, a failure of this magnitude is a reminder that investment in infrastructure reflects investment in communities and people.

“Regulators and policymakers should strive to track blackout events at the most granular level possible to identify systemic biases and develop sound policy to eliminate them and limit impacts on vulnerable communities.”

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