By Michael E. Webber
The Conversation, Feb. 10, 2022
Texans like to think of their state as the energy capital of the world. But in mid-February 2021, the energy state ran short of energy.
An intense winter weather outbreak, informally dubbed Winter Storm Uri by the Weather Channel, swept across the U.S., bringing snow, sleet, freezing rain and frigid temperatures. Texas was hit especially hard, with all 254 counties under a winter storm warning at the same time.
Across the state, sustained arctic temperatures froze power plants and fuel supplies, while energy demand for home heating climbed to all-time highs. Cascading failures in the electric power and natural gas sectors left millions of people in the dark for days. At least 246 people died, possibly many more, and economic damage estimates damages reached US$130 billion.
Water systems, which require energy for pumping and treatment, also were severely damaged. At least 10 million people were under boil-water notices during and after the storm, sometimes for weeks. Low-income and minority residents, who had fewer resources to find alternative housing and make repairs, suffered the worst impacts.
As energy researchers based in Texas, we have spent much of the past two years analyzing why the state was so unprepared for this event and how it can do better. A common knee-jerk reaction to disasters that cause widespread power outages is to call for building more “firm” power plants – those that use fuels like coal or natural gas and are designed to deliver power at any time of day or night. But coal and gas plants, and their fuel supplies, can fail spectacularly.
We think it is important to think beyond just building more power plants. Our findings spotlight other solutions that can be cleaner, cheaper and faster to put in place.
Read the full article on The Conversation.