Schatz Energy Research Center
Backup generators line brick market walls
Backup generators

SFSS webinar 4/23: The global burden of backup generators

Between 1-2 billion people can’t access a reliable power grid. In some communities, the grid is unstable, with power outages that total hundreds to thousands of hours each year. In others, the grid is unaffordable – or there is no grid at all. Many of these communities rely on diesel or gasoline backup generators, which emit greenhouse gases and particulate pollutants inside and in close proximity to homes, businesses, and community markets.

In 2019, scientists at the Schatz Center built a model to assess backup generator use around the globe. In this talk, project leads Peter Alstone and Nicholas Lam share their recent findings about the global impacts of backup generator use on human health, economies, and the environment. The findings shed light on the opportunity for small, solar-based systems to increase energy access in underserved communities by replacing dirty backup generators.

Nicholas Lam is a research scientist at the Schatz Center. Nick’s work focuses on the welfare impacts of clean energy transitions in low and middle income countries. Peter Alstone is a faculty scientist at the Schatz Center, and an assistant professor of environmental resources engineering at Humboldt State. Peter’s research areas include distributed energy systems and energy access, for both on and off-grid environments.

How to attend

We’re holding this semester’s Sustainable Futures Speaker Series online via webinar — visit our speaker series page for the schedule of upcoming events. Talks will be given from 5:30-7:00 pm on Thursday evenings (Pacific). Each lecture will be streamed via Zoom with closed captioning, and will be followed by a Q&A discussion period. All events are free and open to the public.

About the series

The Sustainable Futures Speaker Series stimulates interdisciplinary collaboration around issues related to energy, the environment, and society. All lectures are free and open to the public, and are sponsored by the Schatz Energy Research Center, the Environment & Community graduate program, and the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at Humboldt State. For Spring 2020, we’re bringing our ongoing series online via Zoom with closed captioning. Please visit for the full lineup. Questions? Email

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