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What can we do when power grids fail us?
Less than a month after its last planned power outage, the energy company Pacific Gas and Electric has announced to 303,000 of its Northern California customers another potential shutoff, beginning Wednesday.
Wind, live electrical wires, and dry weather create a perfect storm for wildfires in a state that fires have already ravaged—some of which, including the Camp Fire of 2018, having been traced to PG&E equipment. Power shutoffs serve to prevent further damage.
But to prevent more long-term damage, the key may be the kinds of grids that don’t need shutting off: networks of community resources to lean on when others fail, and innovative energy systems that aren’t susceptible to such failures in the first place.
Current actions result in a harmful loop, says Daniel Aldrich, professor of political science, public policy, and urban affairs. “Man-made disasters” like power outages affect a wide swath of people but deal the heaviest blow to the same populations.