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Would the decarbonization effort cure the pain such as the rolling blackout and the straight blackout as well as the wildfires?

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  • Mar 1, 2021

Would the decarbonization effort also cure the pain such as the rolling blackout and the straight blackout as well as the wildfires as the rate-payers had to endure in the known past?

Asked by: Instructor, University - PowerSession attendee

This question was posed during a recent Energy Central PowerSession: Utilities' Role Delivering Biden's Build Back Better Plan -

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Decarbonization, per se, does nothing directly to "cure the pain" of blackouts -- rolling or otherwise. If anything, it's the opposite. Shortcuts undertaken in the name of decarbonization have ended up reducing resilience of the grid. Blackouts are becoming more frequent and longer lasting.

It doesn't have to be that way, however. There are approaches to "building back better" that can advance both decarbonization and resilience. It's too big a topic to get into here, but smart micro-grids and intelligent deployment of energy storage are certainly involved.

Mitchell Beer's picture
Mitchell Beer on Mar 4, 2021

(Replying as a panelist from last week's session...) I'll just second the comment that decarbonization and resilience can (should, must) go hand in hand. The Texas situation was not the first where a certain collection of ideologies led to renewables being blamed for outages brought on largely or entirely because of problems with fossil supplies. It was interesting seeing last month's momentous events covered through the lens of a publication we follow in Australia, where the same dynamic played out a few years ago and (if I've been reading correctly) became a catalyst for wider use of utility-scale batteries.

More broadly, there are whole other conversations about deep energy retrofits and distributed and behind-the-meter resources that I don't always see connecting with utility transition and decarbonization. I can think of all kinds of factors that would make the strands difficult to knit together -- but if the goal is to build back better and deliver reliable, customer-centric service at least cost while meeting a tight deadline to decarbonize, utilities will need every tool in the toolbox. 

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