Air pollution is forcing people to use more electricity, which results in even more significant environmental problems as it produces more greenhouse gas emissions. That is according to researchers from the Cardiff University who said that lower-income families and those from ethnic minority groups are the most affected by this phenomenon.

The researchers said that decision-makers and lawmakers should be encouraged by the results of the study on making policies that can prevent the widening inequality of the society in terms of health and financial hardships.

The researchers published their study in the journal Nature Energy.

Air Pollution Is Directly Proportional to Electricity Usage

The study examines how air pollution has affected the electricity consumption of more than 17,000 commercial buildings and 4,000 residential buildings in Phoenix, Arizona, from 2013 to 2018.

The metropolitan area of Phoenix records the highest air pollution levels in the US, and air pollution is generated from natural resources like dust storms and human activities like energy generation and transportation.

The researchers compared the electricity usage data from the buildings in Phoenix to the levels of pollution in the area to tell whether households of different ethnic groups or specific income levels responded to air pollution differently.

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They found out that air pollution is directly proportional to electricity usage in residential buildings, with increases mainly happening during the day. That means higher levels of pollution caused higher energy consumption; the same is true for commercial buildings.

Dr. Pan He, the study lead author from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University, said that the implications of their study say that people tend to reduce traveling and shift to indoor activities when air pollution is high. This leads to more electricity usage, whether it may be from cooling, heating, lighting, or increase the use of appliances.

Dr. He added that because lower-income or Hispanic consumers have low energy efficiency in their homes and are more exposed to pollution, they are more likely to experience a larger increase in energy consumption.

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Impact of High Levels of Air Pollution to Energy Supplies

Air pollution can affect the performance of solar panels as it prevents it from absorbing light and scatters the sunlight in the air, which gets deposited to the surface of the panels hampering their power generation.

The results of the study also describe the effect of air pollution on energy supplies. It suggests that higher levels of pollution reduce the power generated by solar panels in commercial and residential buildings. Nevertheless, solar panels in commercial buildings tend to be less affected because the panels are better maintained and cleaned.

According to Dr. He, the findings show how important is the interaction between consumer behavior and solar energy systems, and issues relating to air pollution.

The paper has presented a cost-benefit analysis that accounts for the damages that could produce larger welfare gains from policies that prevent pollution. It is essential to improve energy efficiency in homes of specific ethnic and income groups to reduce the socio-economic vulnerability in adapting to air pollution.

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