Texas’ rare freezing temperatures plunging to as low as -20C have caused its energy infrastructure to buckle, leaving millions of Texans without power.
Some news outlets blamed the blackouts on renewable energy failure – freezing wind turbines that cannot supply the grid. The message is clear, renewable energy is not robust enough, and we can’t trust it, some pundits say.
The truth is Texas enjoys a diversity of energy sources, both from renewable energy – wind and solar, gas, nuclear, and coal. And renewable only accounts for a ten per cent share of the state’s energy mix. The rest is from fossil fuel, namely natural gas and coal.
According to the NY Times article, the state’s widespread electricity failure was primarily caused by freezing natural gas pipelines. Freezing temperatures stalled natural gas production, which is Texas’ major source of power. Coal and nuclear plant productions dropped as well. The wind is just a small fraction of the state’s overall power mix.
CBC article says this about Texas blackouts, “two things happened at the same time in Texas… there was record demand for power to heat homes and keep warm, and this coincided with a loss of power generation from plants that weren’t equipped to deal with extreme cold”.
According to Emily Grubert, assistant professor of environmental engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, “They might not have walls even, in quite the same way,” she said. “They might not have insulated pipes.… The whole grid was subject to extreme conditions that it was not designed to handle.”
Also, the Texas grid is “notoriously isolated” from the rest of its neighbouring states, preventing the rest of the country from helping them.
What happened in Texas revealed energy infrastructure’s vulnerability to extreme weather events.
Under the Biden administration, the United States has rejoined the Climate Paris accord. Biden is set to roll out a climate plan that will outline America’s path to decarbonize its economy – promises kept during his campaign.
According to Guy Scriven, Climate Risk correspondent from The Economist, Biden’s focus on climate has given companies incentives to make climate-friendly decisions. General Motors and Jaguar Land Rover have pledged to sell more electric vehicles and gradually discontinue producing internal combustion engines.
Washington’s shift of power and the new administration’s focus on tackling climate change have also encouraged climate mitigation actions worldwide. A strategy gaining momentum in Europe gives shareholders a voice to influence their company’s on how quickly they want them to decarbonize. Through this, shareholders now can make their companies more transparent with their decarbonization plans and corporate boss’s accountability.
In his initial days in office, Biden fulfilling his campaign promise to tackle climate change has cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, issued a moratorium on fossil fuel drilling on federal land, and rejoined the Paris Agreement. His administration believes the creation of good-paying jobs will follow the transition to renewable energy and green economy.
“Building resilient and sustainable infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather and a changing climate will play 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″ says Vedant Patel, a White House assistant press secretary (Searcy, 2021).
To read more about the cause of Texas widespread blackouts, click the links below:
Gabbatiss, J, & McSweeney, R. (2021, February 18). Media reaction: Texas’ deep freeze’, power blackouts and the role of global warming. CarbonBrief. Retrieved from https://www.carbonbrief.org/media-reaction-texas-deep-freeze-power-blackouts-and-the-role-of-global-warming
Searcy, D. (2021 February 17). No, Wind Farms Aren’t the Main Cause of The Texas Blackouts. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/17/climate/texas-blackouts-disinformation.html
Chung, E. (2021, February 20). What caused the deadly power outages in Texas and how Canada’s grid compares. CBC. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/power-outages-texas-canada-1.5920833