Texas Storm Exposes Just How Unprepared US Energy Grids Are For Climate Change

Electric grid regulators throughout the US are claiming that the nation must develop new and vast supplies of energy storage to cope with future climate change related incidents.

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The devastating winter storm that has impacted Texas has sent the state into an electrical crisis that is exposing just how unprepared the US is as a nation to cope with major storms and climate events in the future. The Biden administration is now supposedly looking into ways that America can better prepare for a future extreme weather event, and transition the country to be run on renewable energy. 

A wave of power outages have impacted the Southern and Central parts of the US, and Texas is right in the middle of all the action. The primary electrical grid suffered greatly by deep freezing, leaving millions without power  and heat in the middle of one of the worst winter storms the state has seen. Wind and solar powered businesses and homes also suffered greatly due to this freezing. 

The crisis in Texas is causing America to look at the ways in which it is prepared for future extreme weather events that are bound to happen due to the existing threat of climate change. Wind and solar power are not enough in terms of renewable energy as those two sources rely on good weather conditions in order to work. Jim Robb is the CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation who recently spoke about how the US needs to develop vast supplies of power storage, like gigantic batteries, in order to deal with future climate events. “For batteries to play the ultimate backup system, we’re so far away from that it’s not funny. To really make the vision that we like to get to, a highly decarbonized electric system, you’re going to have to have batteries deployed in many orders of magnitude beyond what we have now.”

“We’re launching a joint inquiry into what went wrong to trigger such widespread outages across the South and the Midwest. As of late Tuesday, more than 3.5 million customers were without power and heat.”

Experts still don’t know the full scope of what went wrong in Texas to cause such a massive amount of outages, however, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas claims that the shortage “was driven by a failure of traditional thermal sources: coal, nuclear and especially natural gas. Gas lines supplying gas-fired plants may have frozen or supplies to the plants may have been limited as gas was prioritized for homes that rely on gas for their heat.”

Texas produces more electricity than any other state, however, only one-quarter of the state’s energy comes from wind and solar sources. President Joe Biden signed an executive order within his first two weeks in office that set a goal to have zero carbon dioxide emissions from US power generation by 2035. In order for this to occur, Robb’s idea of new renewable energy sources must replace current fossil fuels that are clearly unreliable and killing the environment. 

Energy storage is also being looked at as a more feasible option to ensure the US has a solid energy supply to rely on in cases of extreme weather. Energy storage involves stockpiling electricity from renewable sources that can then be distributed throughout a given electrical grid when an outage occurs. Specifically, the creation of giant batteries that can store this energy is being tested in California currently. Saudi Arabia is also testing a similar technology by powering an entire resort with the “world’s largest battery storage facility.”

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“Developing technologies, including hydrogen units and flow batteries, could begin to address some of the shortcomings as the U.S. approaches 2035.”

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Omar AI-Juburi is a partner at Ernst & Young, a company that consults on energy markets and grid technology, who recently spoke on this new technology. “Every indication is that utility-scale battery storage will continue to increase in capacity, decrease in cost, and become more commercially viable. Storage won’t solve all our problems by 2035 or any date, but it will be a major player.”

Biden included battery storage investments as a part of his proposal to spend up to $2 trillion on building a more modern and greener US infrastructure. His administration is currently projected to look into that ambitious agenda this year, and once the Covid-19 pandemic is brought more under control, it will become first priority. 

“Building resilient and sustainable infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and a changing climate will be playing an integral role in creating millions of good-paying, union jobs, creating a clean energy economy and meeting the president’s goal of reaching a net-zero emissions future by 2050,” White House spokesman Vedant Patel said.

Extreme weather is a major side effect of climate change that has clearly been impacting the US greatly within the past few years; Texas’ winter storm, California’s wildfires, etc. Rising temperatures are creating the perfect environments for natural disasters to occur when given the proper climate conditions. “We are in a nonstationary world. Climate change means that it is not stationary. The last 40 years might not be reflective of what’s coming down the pike the next 40 years,” Craig concluded. It’s up to our government and world leaders to take the reins on the pandemic that is climate change before it completely takes over our world.