Portable generators and solar panels are things that most low-income people can’t imagine purchasing and then paying to power when living paycheck to paycheck. The recent planned blackouts in Northern California, which are affecting around 2 million people and are meant to avoid wildfires, are shining a light on a large economic divide in the state, the Associated Press reported.
When Pacific Gas and Electric, the nation’s largest utility provider, announced that it would be cutting power, people who could afford to rushed out to buy backup power.
Many portable generators cost $1,000 or more, and permanent standby generators cost at least $2,000, with an installation price tag that can cost $10,000 or more, according to Consumer Reports.
Solar panels also are costly to install and run and are not available to most lower-income and even middle-income people.
“They’re facing, what am I going to feed my kids if I can’t cook and this food is spoiled? And how will I feed my kids next week?” Mary Kuhn, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities East Bay, told the Associated Press.
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“Times like these, they always reveal what’s actually going on in society, or they accelerate the existing trends,” Daniel Aldrich, director of the master’s program in security and resilience at Northeastern University, told the Associated Press. “For the normal people in California, blue-collar people, people on nebulizers or oxygen machines … for the people who are vulnerable, those individuals, now their lives might be at risk.”
California Public Utilities Commission President Marybel Batjer blasted Pacific Gas and Electric on Monday for what she sees as pitfalls in the way the giant company handled the blackouts.
Batjer wrote in a statement that the outages “created an unacceptable situation that should never be repeated.” The blackouts heavily impacted small businesses that could lose two whole days of business during the blackouts, the Associated Press reported.