Impact of Power Outages Depends on Who Loses It: Equity-Informed Grid Resilience Planning




Hasenbein, John J.
Kutanoglu, Erhan
Toplu-Tutay, Gizem

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This research presents a novel approach for enhancing power grid resilience with a focus on social equity in light of increasing natural disasters. We recognize that natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods can disproportionately affect disadvantaged communities, exacerbating existing disparities. Our research aims to bridge this gap by integrating tailored equity metrics into resilience planning. Our methodology utilizes a two-stage stochastic optimization model for hurricane-induced flood mitigation, which optimizes substation hardening and power flow decisions. The goal of this model is to minimize both the expected load shed and the expected well-being loss metrics of socially vulnerable communities (affected population and duration of loss) in the aftermath of flooding. We explore the trade-off between these objectives. What sets our research apart is the integration of realistic flood scenario generation, a large-scale synthetic power grid of Texas, and multiple methodologies in resource allocation, community impact modeling, power flow modeling, and equity metric development, as well as comprehensive computational experiments. The findings highlight the importance of the composite objective function in altering power flow decisions to prioritize electricity provision and save communities in disadvantaged areas even without investing in substation hardening (i.e., just managing load shedding with more attention to such vulnerabilities). The results also quantify the equity and load shed benefits of substation hardening as a function of the investment budget with a parameterized analysis. With an attention to equity, power outages increase in nonvulnerable communities — a trade-off made to mitigate well-being loss in the most vulnerable areas. Notably, more attention to equity provides a lower or equal number of people saved per 1 MW increase in the load shed, underscoring the concept of diminishing returns. Our findings highlight the importance of strategically allocating a limited budget and consistently prioritizing the hardening of substations serving more vulnerable populations. We further explore a justice model inspired by the government’s Justice40 initiative but find it less effective than our equity-informed models at preventing well-being loss. Our findings offer valuable insights for policymakers, grid operators, and utilities striving for a more resilient and equitable power grid. We believe that our research will not only contribute to equitable power grid resilience but also provide practical solutions to address the pressing challenges posed by climate change and natural disasters.


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