Texas’ Precarious Power Grid Exposes a Nasty Feedback Loop
As the planet warms, more AC use stresses the grid
Another extreme weather event, another trial for Texas’ infamous electrical grid. As temperatures have soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, residents have cranked up their air conditioners, forcing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot), which runs the state’s grid, to ask customers to limit power usage, lest the system crash.
And what a singular grid it is. The United States actually has three distinct grids: The ones in the west and east roughly cut the country in half. But Texas divorced itself from all that, opting to run its own operations to avoid regulation. That means power providers don’t face penalties for failing to deliver electricity, as they do in regulated states. And because it’s not intricately connected to its neighbors’ energy grids, Texas can’t import lots of power from elsewhere when demand spikes, like during this heat wave or a cold snap. That isolationist stance has left it ill-prepared to weather the extremes of climate change.
“Texas, once again, is in a unique position where basically they’ve isolated themselves from the rest of the grid,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School.
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