By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton President
Extreme weather and widespread power outages in Texas are headline news everywhere this week. As of today, nearly three million customers remain without power, after record-breaking low temperatures and heavy snowfall struck the state. It's a dangerous situation, and many of us have friends and/or family directly impacted.
Emotions are frayed and lives remain at risk. As with any crisis, priority one is restoring power and tending to those in need. Lessons learned can wait until safety is restored.
But it's a sad reality we must also contend with disinformation about root causes and contributing factors to the energy portion of this crisis. Specifically, some clean energy naysayers see an opportunity to push a false narrative that these power outages were primarily caused by a wind power failure. This simply is not true.
To be sure, older wind farms in Texas had icing issues that caused them to go offline, but the Texas power grid experienced major failures across all energy sources -- coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants were plagued by outages, along with wind and solar. To put it in perspective, one report from energy market analysts in Texas showed 4 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity offline, while 26 GW of thermal capacity (mostly natural gas) was down.
The culprit is extreme weather (remember Climate Change?) for Texas. It's not a problem with green energy in general. Wind and solar generate 21% of the electricity for Minnesota, 29% for North Dakota, and 30% for South Dakota. And those states know a thing or two about extreme weather!
Those facts are courtesy of the bipartisan climate project World War Zero, as are these links to news reports explaining what happened in Texas:
This afternoon, in an episode of Energy Matters, Georgia Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols and co-host K.C. Boyce provided good context for the Texas situation and how the energy environment there differs from ours in Georgia. I found it helpful and worth viewing.
Keep the people of Texas in your thoughts and their welfare in your prayers. We will certainly learn more in coming weeks as to the causes and lessons learned in this. But meanwhile, let's also maintain context as to broader energy challenges we face. We'll be back soon to chat more about how Climate Change drives the extreme weather that makes planning for energy (and other needs) more challenging that ever. And to explore the ways in which clean, renewable energy sources make the grid cheaper, more reliable, and cleaner for our environment.