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Liam Denning

California Will Pay You Handsomely to Stay Off the Grid

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s back is against the wall, and backup generators are one of his last lines of defense.

California Gov. Gavin Newson could use some backup.

California Gov. Gavin Newson could use some backup.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images North America

California is calling for backup. And it will pay handsomely — in cash, pollution and political capital.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to avert blackouts over the next few months. A confluence of factors has exposed the vulnerabilities of the state’s grid, mostly centered on this summer’s unusually widespread hot and dry conditions. Hydropower reservoirs are low. Neighboring states may send less electricity California’s way. Customers with air-conditioning are cranking it up. Newsom warns there may be shortfalls of 3,500 megawatts during “extreme weather events” — on a roughly 50,000 megawatt-system — and maybe more next summer.