CALifornia Power Outage and Wildfires Economics Research (CALPOWER)

In Fall 2018, and to a much larger extent in Fall 2019, Californians began experiencing unprecedented increases in electricity outage hours. The Energy Institute is running a first-of-its-kind survey of households and businesses to understand their experiences with the fire-related power outages. Close neighbors had very different outage experiences, and we have identified geographically proximate neighbors who are similar along many socioeconomic dimensions but some had no outages and some had over 50 hours. By studying these neighbors, we can isolate the effects of the outages distinct from other socioeconomic differences across households.

Much of the existing research used to understand the costs and benefits of electricity outages relies on surveys that pose hypothetical questions about how much firms or households would be willing to pay to avoid outages. Recent events in California provide a rare opportunity to learn from actual experiences.

Our goal is to answer the question, “How much should society pay to maintain a reliable electricity system?” We will do this by asking: what are the effects of electricity supply outages on household and firm decisions? Do households and firms make investment decisions in response to experienced or threatened blackouts? What have the economic costs of the ongoing California Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) that took place in 2019 been to society?

As the team conducts the surveys, the content of this page will be updated to reflect the latest findings.

For questions, please reach out to Kathy Nagel at knagel@berkeley.edu.