Evidence suggests that households adapt to hot weather by employing energy-intensive technologies, such as air conditioning. Ensuing energy expenses might cause some low-income households to incur insurmountable energy debt and eventually become disconnected due to non-payment. Here we examine this possibility using electricity use and disconnection data for 300,000 low-income households from California 2012–2017. We find that each additional day with a maximum temperature of 95 °F causes electricity expenses to increase by 1.6% in the current billing period, and the relative risk of disconnection to increase by 1.2% 51–75 days later. In the context of climate change, a back-of-the-envelope calculation indicates the average risk of disconnection would increase by 12% if today’s weather resembled projected weather for the 2080–2099 period.
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The PRISM weather data can be accessed at https://prism.oregonstate.edu/. The electricity data for the current study are not publicly available due to a non-disclosure agreement with Southern California Edison but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request and written permission from Southern California Edison. Information on Southern California Edison’s Energy Request Program can be found at https://www.sce.com/partners/partnerships/access-energy-usage-data. Interested researchers should contact U. Beyerle or J. Sedlacek at ETH Zurich to gain access to the CMIP5 climate projection data.
The Stata code used to estimate and graph the regressions is available on request. The ‘reghdfe’ command in Stata MP 16.0 was used for the regressions.
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We acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. We are grateful for U. Beyerle and J. Sedlacek at ETH Zurich, who provided access to the CMIP data. This research was supported by funding from the California Strategic Growth Council Climate Change Research Program (number CCRP0056) (A.B. and R.J.P.). R. Sheinberg provided valuable research assistance.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Barreca, A., Park, R.J. & Stainier, P. High temperatures and electricity disconnections for low-income homes in California. Nat Energy 7, 1052–1064 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-022-01134-2
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