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Climate-Proofing Your Home: Improving Your Backup Power Supply

Blizzards, hurricanes, and wildfire risks can all be reasons you might lose power. Here are some alternatives to buying a highly polluting generator.

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Illustration: Joel Plosz for Bloomberg Green

It was wildfire season in Northern California, and the hills of Berkeley, California last fall were alive with the raucous sound of fossil fuel generators. As utilities repeatedly cut electricity to hundreds of thousands of households to prevent power lines from sparking destructive blazes, homeowners turned on the highly polluting devices to keep their lights on.

The California Air Resources Board calculated that in a 50-hour period during the October 2019 power shutoffs, an estimated 122,000 gasoline generators—the type typically used by households—emitted 24.3 tons of nitrogen oxide and 10.6 tons of particulate matter. Nitrogen oxide is a key ingredient in smog and particulate matter can cause heart and lung disease.