It's Not Just Texas: The Entire Energy Grid Needs An Upgrade For Extreme Weather

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The electricity grid is more than wires. It's also power plants big transmission towers and local utilities. Everything that gets electricity to you. Much of that infrastructure was designed for a different era says energy consultant alison silverstein. We plan this grid for us inherit weather and we are now facing mad max. These pop culture references are silverstein colorful way of saying that what worked in the nineteen fifties sixties and seventies needs to be updated for a future that includes climate change. Everybody has always designed these systems looking in the rear view mirror that made sense grid. Managers identified the worst case scenario from the past and planned for that but climate change is delivering whether that hasn't been experienced before the number of weather disasters with losses over a billion dollars is increasing according to the federal government and the group climate central says that since two thousand there's a sixty seven percent increase in major power outages from weather and climate related events. Each region has its own vulnerabilities. Take the pacific northwest. And it's massive hydropower dams for example. Not only do we need to be worried about the cold weather events like he signed texas and the the hot weather events like in california ben kiala is at the northwest power and conservation council. They recently changed their planning models to look ahead and better prepare for how climate change alters win water flows through the dams. He says warming temperatures make it likely that mountain snow pack will melt earlier in the year. And you have a lot more water running into those reservoirs in the winter when it used to be more of a spring phenomenon and it might be that by summer. You're pretty much. All the snow. Pack melted everything off. And you don't have that much precipitation and you just have way less energy in the summer grid. Experts generally agree. The country needs to build more transmission lines to get electricity from where it's produced to where it's needed. That would make it possible to add more cleaner. Sources of power like wind turbine solar projects in batteries to store energy. Larry gas diker heads wires. A trade group advocating for more high voltage transmission lines. He points out that president biden set a goal of net zero carbon emissions from the power sector by twenty thirty five. That may sound like a long time from now but in the world of building transmission It's really not that far off when you think you need a good ten here. Lead time in order to get there and gas tiger says all that new transmission infrastructure big towers. Thick lines comes with a steep price tag. Our study said up to ninety billion dollars of investment by twenty thirty maybe as much as six hundred billion an investment by two thousand fifty gas tiger suspects the texas blackout. While encouraged policymakers to move on this issue. Soon as expensive as this sounds the texas experience shows. There's also a cost of not preparing the grid for more extreme weather in dollars and lives jeffrey. Npr

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