What would you say is our biggest, most complex but important network? We may have ignored its importance but the blackout in Texas forced us to remember that it is our electric grid we need to take care of most.
It is not out of place to mention that Texas previously (in 2011) faced such a similar extreme cold situation. Now again, the failure of such a large portion of the energy-generating fleet in Texas suggests that infrastructure designed without weatherizing it, is defenseless to the extreme cold. Just after the 2011 ice storm, crippling power plants, and forcing rolling blackouts, FERC and others gave recommendation to Texas Utility that they must winterize their grid and improve their system, but they failed to do so and now we all are witnessing the results.
California also went through a similar situation just a few short months ago. Encountered with some unprecedented heatwaves, residents of the Golden State found themselves losing power for many hours as the utilities cut down the power to avoid further agitation of wildfires. Experiencing what extreme weather can do to an electric grid and now months away from Summer, what are key takeaways for California to avoid a similar situation like Texas just faced?
CLIMATE CHANGE IS HERE, WE BETTER WELL PREPARED
As we start moving more towards carbon-free energy sources, the state utilities must analyze the grid precisely. Proactively think and work towards better maintenance of the grid and improvement as well. We don’t know what the future holds, but it is certain that climate change can bring states as big and powerful as California and Texas to their knees. The time has come to think about the unthinkable.
What’s Needed Now Is . . . POLITICS.
USC Engineering Professor Najmedin Meshkati while interviewing on the Texas issue stated that “One lesson we need to learn from Texas is that the energy-related matters are too serious to entrust to only economists and the blind deregulation.” Policymakers must act swiftly on their commitment to 100% green energy for the state.
KEEP THE OPTIONS OPEN
The time has come to think about safe nuclear power. While talking about nuclear power it is true that they produce pollutants but not much as fossil fuel and coal do. But then, we have the problem of extreme weather. They could affect renewables like wind or solar. But on the other hand, we also have Geo-Thermal, underground gas storage, hydrogen from water via Solar Power, biomethane. All these types, including nuclear, could provide seasonal reliability and that is why we really need to keep our options open.
As last year’s heatwave made clear that due to the state’s current grid infrastructure, renewable energy alone could not meet California’s air conditioning demand during still-hot evening hours.
It is good to know that California’s Public Utilities Commission has ordered utilities to secure additional power supplies in preparation for the coming summer. And for that technological improvements to power storage technologies and upgradation to the existing electrical grid are badly needed. California’s elected leaders need to put extra focus on this. The leaders at the state and officers at utilities together need to develop a robust energy plan for the coming days.