Americans likely to experience more power outages due to climate change

Weather & Traffic Q&As

AUSTIN (KXAN) — If last week showed us anything, it is that climate change is real and we are not ready for it. Between 2000 and 2016, more than half of power outages were caused by weather events, according to a 2018 report published in the Reliability Engineering & System Safety Journal.

A 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers said that “Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions” as a result of climate change.

So what can we do to get ready for the next storm brought about by climate change?

“This is likely something that’s going to get worse and we have to decide what we want to do to be prepared,” said B. Don Russell Ph.D., a professor of Electric Power Engineering at Texas A&M. “We can make the grid smarter. We can put in more monitoring… and we can harden some facilities.”

Dr. Russell, who designed some of the technology that protects California’s power grid from wildfires, said making any changes to our grid to prepare for the next storm will be expensive.

“There needs to be a public policy decision to spend the kind of money that would be necessary to meet all the necessary events,” he said.

It is possible to prevent further outages because of weather events, Russell said. Wind turbines, for instance, have unfairly received a lot of the blame for last week’s statewide outage. Russell points out that there are wind turbines in some of the coldest places on Earth, including the North Sea, that work all year long.

Diversifying our energy generators will be essential to surviving the next weather event. Russell said that while renewables are great, they’re not consistent. He recommends using more nuclear power.

“It’s clean. It’s always there. With some work, it could be rarely affected by these events,” he said.

Making changes to protect our grid wouldn’t take years. Russell said that if we’re willing to spend enough money, we could get some of them done before next winter.

The downside is that most of the time the preparations won’t be needed and it may feel like we’re throwing away money. But the next time an extreme storm is in the forecast, we won’t regret it.

“We are vulnerable to the loss of electricity and we do not have the skill sets, generally speaking, to survive without it,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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