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Texas crisis highlights vulnerability of U.S. power grids: “If this isn’t a wake-up call … I don’t know what is”

President Biden assured folks in Texas on Friday that the federal authorities will assist them get better within the aftermath of brutal winter climate that hit the state laborious final week. Excessive chilly left tens of millions with out energy, warmth and operating water — highlighting the rising danger to our nation’s energy methods. 

“If this is not a wake-up name that our present, primarily fossil gas system is not serving us, then I do not know what’s,” mentioned Dan Cohan, professor of environmental engineering at Rice College in Houston. “This put my spouse’s hospital out of water and dealing bathrooms whereas they have been treating carbon monoxide poisonings.”

Cohan, who’s coping with survivors’ guilt from the storm, mentioned record-breaking climate pushed energy calls for past the worst-case situation.

“This storm hit each energy supplier. It hit wind generators. It knocked out one nuclear unit. It knocked down a number of of our coal vegetation. However greater than every part else mixed, it was a failure of our fuel methods, to get sufficient fuel to the ability vegetation, to make electrical energy after we wanted it essentially the most,” he mentioned.

Texas is uniquely weak as a result of its electrical grid is separate from the 2 different main grids that serve the U.S., leaving the state unable to borrow energy from its neighbors, Jamie Yuccas experiences.

Severin Borenstein, who’s on the board of governors for the California Impartial System Operator, the nerve heart for {the electrical} system within the state, mentioned Texas did not plan for the acute chilly — identical to California did not plan for excessive warmth final August, when wildfires and warmth waves pressured rolling energy outages.

“I feel that even the leaders in Texas who usually are not prepared to just accept that local weather change is being pushed by CO2 emissions are coming round to the conclusion that we’re getting extra excessive climate and that they should plan for that,” Borenstein mentioned.

A current evaluation of nationwide energy outage information from Local weather Central discovered main energy outages attributable to excessive climate have elevated 67% since 2000. The U.S. skilled a document 22 local weather and climate disasters in 2020, every costing at the least $1 billion in damages.  

The Federal Vitality Regulatory Fee, the federal company that ensures the grid’s reliability, together with in Texas, regulates the interstate transmission of electrical energy and pure fuel. Wealthy Glick, chairman of the company, mentioned he believes that individuals ought to begin demanding solutions.

“We definitely know find out how to function all these several types of applied sciences and several types of energy vegetation throughout excessive climate situations, however now we have to organize for ’em. That requires investments to be made by utilities and different house owners of energy vegetation,” he mentioned.

“When you do not make the investments at this time, you are gonna find yourself costing, not solely by way of a number of {dollars} however costing by way of lives,” he mentioned.

In 2011, FERC issued a report warning Texas to winterize its energy vegetation to guard in opposition to excessive chilly climate. Glick mentioned the report was placed on the bookshelf, and nothing was executed.

“How briskly do we have to make investments in issues like the ability grid?” CBS Information’ Yuccas requested him.

“It is a actual emergency,” he mentioned. “We won’t afford to attend.”

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