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The push for grid resiliency heats up

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 737 items added with 363,666 views
  • Oct 21, 2021

Yes, all of us in this industry have read pretty much all there is on the Texas blackouts earlier this winter, one of the greatest failures, if not the greatest, of modern U.S. power infrastructure. How it happened baffled plenty: freezing weather? Snow? Ice? Really? How state legislators went on to address the catastrophe walked a fine line between laughable and frustrating, depending on your level of disillusionment with the Texas government. 

However, Texas is not the only place battling significant grid resiliency questions. Just last week, a group of more than 200 Iowa scientists sent a message to the state government, urging legislators to strengthen and expand the electricity grid. Last year, an intense derecho, or storm with sustained high winds, knocked out electricity for more than half a million Iowans. In their statement, the scientists warned about the worsening conditions in climate change and said grid resiliency and modernization is a key element to preparing for more extreme events. 

In Puerto Rico, the power grid was transferred to a private company in order to help strengthen its resiliency and management and help curb blackouts in the territory. Since the private company, LUMA Energy took over, the situation has gotten worse, with more than half of the 1.5 million electric customers experiencing blackouts in the late summer. The grid needs significant upgrades and needs to be more resilient in the face of hurricanes, which have ravaged the territory in recent years. 

In New Orleans it's a similar story. An investigation by NPR and ProPublica found that Entergy New Orleans, the local power company, failed to adequately prepare the power grid for a storm like Hurrican Ida and has "aggressively resisted efforts by regulators, residents and advocates to improve its infrastructure," which makes the city more vulnerable in the face of hurricanes. 

What these situations have in common is increased vulnerability in the face of more extreme weather events and a reluctance, at least so far, to do anything substantial about it. Federal regulators will continue to have a tough time imposing rules onto Texas and they appear to have taken a hands-off approach to Puerto Rico, however, in places like Iowa, New Orleans and the rest of the U.S. grid infrastructure, the federal government should consider stepping in and mandating enhanced weatherization and climate change resiliency plans that include analyses on how well the infrastructure can stand up to extreme weather. 

Without modern mandates on grid resiliency, U.S. citizens will continue to be vulnerable to the whims of climate change in a way that can be avoided with the right level of planning and regulation. 


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