Glimpse America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids

"Systems are designed to handle spikes in demand, but the wild and unpredictable weather linked to global warming will very likely push grids beyond their limits."

"Huge winter storms plunged large parts of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis this week, with frigid blasts of Arctic weather crippling electric grids and leaving millions of Americans without power amid dangerously cold temperatures.

The grid failures were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up Tuesday morning to rolling blackouts. Separate regional grids in the Southwest and Midwest also faced serious strain. As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 23 people nationwide had died in the storm or its aftermath.

Analysts have begun to identify key factors behind the grid failures in Texas. Record-breaking cold weather spurred residents to crank up their electric heaters and pushed power demand beyond the worst-case scenarios that grid operators had planned for. At the same time, a large fraction of the state’s gas-fired power plants were knocked offline amid icy conditions, with some plants suffering fuel shortages as natural gas demand spiked. Many of Texas’ wind turbines also froze and stopped working."

Brad Plumer reports for the New York Times February 16, 2021.


"Texas Deep Freeze Leaves Millions Without Power, 21 Dead" (Reuters)

"Texas Blackouts Hit Minority Neighborhoods Especially Hard" (New York Times)

"No, Frozen Wind Turbines Aren't The Main Culprit For Texas' Power Outages" (Texas Tribune)

"Explainer: Texas's One-Of-A-Kind Power System Raises Questions During Price Spike" (Reuters)

"Gov. Greg Abbott, Other Top Texas Officials Call For Resignations And Investigations At Electrical Grid Operator" (Texas Tribune)

"Texas Largely Relies On Natural Gas For Power. It Wasn’t Ready For The Extreme Cold." (Texas Tribune)

"ERCOT Officials Say They Have No Idea When Texas’ Power Outages Will End" (Dallas News)

"The Texas Grid Got Crushed Because Its Operators Didn’t See The Need To Prepare For Cold Weather" (Washington Post)

"Trump’s Energy Chief Says Renewables to Blame for Texas Crisis" (Bloomberg Environment)

Editorial: "Texas Knew For Years Power Grid Was At Risk But Did Little About It. Unbelievable." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Source: NYTimes, 02/17/2021