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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

Updated 6 hours ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor of Arkansas

Sarah Huckabee Sanders at FOX News' studios in New York City in 2019. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will announce Monday that she's running for governor of Arkansas.

The big picture: Sanders was touted as a contender after it was announced she was leaving the Trump administration in June 2019. Then-President Trump tweeted he hoped she would run for governor, adding "she would be fantastic." Sanders is "seen as leader in the polls" in the Republican state, notes the Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, who first reported the news.

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

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