Electricity pricing in California will cause old people to not use life saving air conditioning in heat waves

Old people and babies are vulnerable to death from heat waves. The electrical pricing is setting old people up to not use the air conditioning that they may truly need at some point to save their life.

Steeply tiered electricity costs can nail people with electricity bills of $200-500 or more in months where they use several hours of air conditioning in one day in California and South Korea and many other countries.

Elderly people are generally more vulnerable to the effects of a heat wave, particularly if they:

*take certain medications or if they are affected by conditions that have the effect of decreasing their tolerance to heat
*are physically and socially isolated
* present a loss of autonomy

Cost of air conditioning and electricity

Korea, like Japan, charges three rates based on the level of electricity usage. But unlike Japan, there is a larger increase between the tiered rates.

A household that consumes 200 kWh a month would face a bill of 25,000 won (US$22.33). However, that bill increases to 250,000 won (US$222) if it uses an air conditioner eight hours a day during the scorching heat.

The hundreds of thousands who can’t afford to escape the heat or afford air conditioning, the government has set up designated “heatwave resting areas”. In Seoul, there are more than 3,000 such cooling shelters open mainly during the day.

The most vulnerable are the elderly in rural areas, where the death rate from heat-related causes is 5.6 times higher than cities.

By 2050, 37 percent of South Korea’s population will consist of the elderly and heatwaves are increasingly becoming an issue in the rapidly aging nation. Currently, almost half of the elderly population lives in poverty.

For the hundreds of thousands who can’t afford to escape the heat or afford air conditioning, the government has set up designated “heatwave resting areas”. In Seoul, there are more than 3,000 such cooling shelters open mainly during the day.

PGE in California also has steeply tiered electricity rates and will charge over 5 times the baseline price heavy uses of electricity. This would include running air conditioners for many hours during a heat wave.

France had thousands of elderly deaths because of lack of air conditioning during heat waves.

In 2006, California had 140-600 heat wave deaths during a 17 day heatwave.

There will be more and more old people in the developed countries and there could be more prolonged heat waves. The elderly will likely be on fixed incomes and would be avoiding the prolonged use of electricity because of the regular large energy bills.

Protecting Babies from heat

Due to their different metabolism, babies are particularly sensitive to heat. Vigilance is important during a heat wave and the following advice will help you to take good care of your little one:

* Keep your baby in diapers at home. He/she will perspire less and therefore have less hydric loss to compensate for.
* Have your baby drink regularly.
* Place a fan in his/her room.
* Give your baby a bath two or three times a day to cool him/her down.
* If you go outside, cover your baby’s head and limit exposure to extreme heat as much as possible.

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