So far in 2019, California's climate change-induced wildfires have burned far fewer acres than they did in the same period last year, but the state's officials are still on edge. The constant threat of flames has continued to drive up expenses, as well, reports The New York Times.
For example, Pacific Gas & Electric is requesting that regulators approve an additional charge to customers of $2 billion over the next three years to help pay for wildfire safety improvements. Customers will also be paying more than $10 billion in taxes on electricity bills, the Times writes, and some counties are spending hundreds of thousands to install generators in government buildings. But the rising costs are increasingly accepted as a necessary evil.
"It's a lot of money for us, but I really feel we don't have a choice," Dennis Darling, who owns a supermarket in the town of Clearlake, told the Times.
Darling, who is paying $100,000 to install a generator in the supermarket he owns, is among the residents taking matters into their own hands should the power grids continue to fail amid wildfires. There's reportedly been a spike in interest in energy storage systems throughout the state. "We're seeing more and more of that over the last three or four years now, because of the threat of wildfires, the threat of an earthquake," said Rainier de Ocampo, vice president for marketing at Solar Optimum, a solar power and storage contractor.
Resident Susanne Polos said she recalls her power going out 10 times in the last year, prompting her family to invest in an energy storage system; they have an electric car, which they can't afford to not have charged in case of a fire emergency.
All told, the prospect of fires remains on the minds of everyone in the state despite the assurance from Pacific Gas & Electric's chief executive officer Bill Johnson that "we are safer than we were yesterday." Johnson himself acknowledged "this risk exists and can't be eliminated." Read more at The New York Times.