Amin Kargarian Marvasti
(Electrial Engineering)

and Frederick Weil (Sociology),
"Toward Equitable Power Infrastructure Resilience"

(Funded by the National Science Foundation.)


Project Description (from the NSF proposal)

This research aims to define power grid resilience equity according to communities' hardships and then integrate it into power infrastructure protection against flood-induced hazards. With the fast-paced digital transformation of modern society and economic activities, functioning society relies more on electric power. That reliance will only increase as civilization moves from fossil fuels toward carbon neutral energy production. Maintaining optimal grid performance and recovery from system disruptions have, therefore, become one of the underpinning elements of resilient societies. Pursuing the common practice, which only considers the power grid while ignoring disadvantaged communities' hardships and requirements, may result in unjust management of power infrastructure resilience. It is essential to define energy resilience from the community perspective and integrate it into power grid infrastructure decision-making to attain equitable energy resiliency, particularly in high-risk areas with socially diverse populations such as the Southern U.S., the front line of climate change. Our proposed equitable-resilience power grid infrastructure will address the issue of energy injustice during natural disasters to avoid leaving underprivileged neighborhoods without access to a reliable and resilient power grid. In particular, a socio-economic integrated equitability framework will be first developed to define and quantify disadvantaged community hardship based on social-psychological, technical, and demographic factors. Power grid outage data from various outlets will be collected, and a survey will be conducted in New Orleans. Then, socio-economic factors related to social equity of the impacted communities due to natural disasters will be quantified. These factors will be integrated into decision-making for day-ahead proactive power substation protection against flooding using tiger dams; flexible tubes utilities use for emergency protection against water flow.

As of late 2023, the social science portion of this research is engaged in developing a questionnaire about hardships that occur during electrial power outages in New Orleans (an all-too frequent occurence). We will develop scales or indexes of hardship, and these will be used in models that optimize both repair costs in hardening the electrical grid, and doing so equitably, so that disadvantaged communities receive equitable treatment.


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