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Photo: Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images

The risk of wildfires in California prompted what may be the largest deliberate power cut in U.S. history. The growing frequency of such precautions could incentivize residential and commercial customers to turn to on-site power generation.

Why it matters: Such a shift could mean a boon for solar energy systems, but also a comeback for gas-powered generators in areas bearing the brunt of extreme dry weather exacerbated by climate change.

What's happening: The fires and power cuts are intertwined due to a complicated mix of factors, including ineffective management by energy companies, insufficient regulatory oversight, climate change, poor urban planning and suburban sprawl.

  • As PG&E considers power cuts over the next decade, people and businesses in California are looking at alternatives, whether solar and storage systems or more “traditional” generators that run on gasoline, diesel, liquid propane or natural gas.

Between the lines: Gas-powered generators are priced at roughly $100 per kilowatt, making them a relatively affordable, and easy-to-source, fallback.

  • Many also have multiple fuel options, making them resilient to shortages or price fluctuations.
  • Solar energy systems might also get a boost from power cuts, but the upfront costs of a solar system (especially with battery storage) can be significantly higher than those of a generator.

What to watch: Because a solar energy system requires no fuel, the equipment's lifetime cost is lower than a generator's.

  • However, the upfront cost of a solar energy system could still be more than most people or businesses are able or willing to cover when facing imminent power cuts.

Morgan Bazilian is a professor of public policy and director of the Payne Institute at Colorado School of Mines.

Go deeper

Inequality Index signals October jobs growth for lower-income Americans

Data: Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index; Chart: Axios Visuals

Polling for the Morning Consult/Axios Inequality Index suggests that as the Delta variant ebbed over the last month, job security improved for lower-income Americans.

The big picture: As a result of the improving environment, the Inequality Index this month declined to its lowest point since April — reversing a significant spike in September.

White House unveils landmark reports on climate links to security, migration

Photo Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Biden administration on Thursday released a sweeping set of assessments on climate change's threat to national security and its role in fueling migration.

Why it matters: One of the key products, a formal National Intelligence Estimate on climate change, marks the first time all 18 elements of the U.S. intelligence community have released a consensus report on the topic.

Scoop: Garland defends DOJ's handling of Jan. 6 probe

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland will tell the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that federal prosecutors "are doing exactly what they are expected to do" in seeking accountability for the "intolerable assault" on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Allies of former President Trump, including Republican congressmen, have criticized the department's treatment rioters charged with crimes, and sought to recast the insurrection as a righteous protest. Garland's testimony with be his first appearance before the panel.

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