The high levels of air pollution are forcing people inside to use more electricity, which creates even greater environmental problems by increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
This emerges from a new study by researchers at Cardiff University, who found that the effects are more likely to be seen in low-income families and in ethnic minority families.
The team says the results should encourage policymakers to think about how policies can prevent inequality from widening in terms of both health risks and financial hardships.
The study, published in the journal Nature Energy, looked at the energy consumption of over 4,000 residential and 17,000 commercial buildings in the city of Phoenix, Arizona, between 2013 and 2018.
The Phoenix metropolitan area has the highest air pollution in the United States, with pollution coming from both natural sources such as dust storms and human activities such as energy generation and transportation.
The energy consumption data of the buildings in Phoenix was compared with the pollution levels in the area, so the researchers could determine whether households with different income levels or from different ethnic groups reacted differently to air pollution.
The results showed that higher levels of pollution were associated with higher electricity consumption in residential buildings, with the increase occurring mainly during the day.
Higher levels of pollution also led to higher electricity consumption in commercial buildings in the retail and leisure industries.
“Our results show that when the air pollution is high, people tend to travel less and engage in indoor activities, which generally leads to higher electricity consumption, be it from heating, cooling and lighting or from increased use of equipment,” said Lead author of the study Dr. Pan He from Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
“Lower-income consumers or Spanish populations saw a larger increase, possibly because of low energy efficiency in their homes and higher exposure to air pollution.”
Researchers also looked at the effects of high levels of air pollution on energy supplies, particularly on solar panels.
It is believed that solar panels can lose their efficiency because air pollution not only absorbs and scatters sunlight in the air, but also builds up on the surface of the modules, hindering their generation of electricity.
In fact, the results showed that air pollution reduced the energy produced by solar panels in both residential and commercial buildings, with the latter possibly less affected as the modules were better maintained and cleaned.
“Our results show the importance of considering the interactions and feedbacks of consumer behavior and solar energy systems in relation to air pollution issues,” continued Dr. Hey go.
‘A cost-benefit analysis in taking into account the damage presented in this paper could lead to greater welfare gains from pollution control measures. In the meantime, it is crucial to reduce the socio-economic vulnerability to air pollution adaptation caused by a Improving pollution can be achieved energy efficiency in the homes of certain incomes and ethnic groups. “
Source of the story:
Materials provided by Cardiff University. Note: the content can be edited by style and length.