July 5, 2022

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Experts warn of the power grid's ability to face climate change

Experts warn of the power grid’s ability to face climate change

(CNN) – With the temperature rising sooner than expected The hottest northern summer More than usual, electricity experts and officials are warning that states may not have enough power to meet demand in the coming months. And many of the country’s power grid operators don’t take climate change into their planning either, though extreme weather events It became more frequent and dangerous.

All this suggests that more blackouts are on the way, not just this summer but for years to come.

Electricity operators from the central United States, in their area summer preparation report They had already forecast “insufficient confirmed resources to cover the forecast for the peak of summer”. This assessment took into account historical weather and NOAA’s latest forecast predicting more severe weather this summer.

But energy experts tell CNN that some power grid operators don’t take into account how the climate crisis is changing our era, including frequent extreme events, and that’s a problem if the intent is to build a reliable power grid.

“The reality is that the electrical system is old and a lot of the infrastructure was built before we started thinking about climate change,” says Romani Webb, a research fellow at Columbia University’s Sabine Center for Climate Change Law. “It is not designed to withstand the effects of climate change.”

Webb says that many power grid operators use historical weather to make investment decisions, rather than more pessimistic climate forecasts, simply because they want to avoid the possibility of financial loss by investing in what might happen versus what has already happened. Webb believes that this is the wrong approach and makes the power grid vulnerable.

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“We’ve seen a reluctance on the part of many utilities to include climate change in their planning processes because they say the science about climate change is very uncertain,” Webb said. “The truth is we know that climate change is happening, we know its impact in terms of extreme heat waves and hurricanes and droughts, and we know that all of these things affect the electrical system, so ignoring those effects does nothing but make problems worse.”

An early heat wave destroyed six power plants in Texas earlier this month. Residents were asked to limit electricity use by keeping thermostats at 25.5°C or higher and to avoid using large appliances during peak hours. The Texas Electrical Reliability Council, or ERCOT, said in its Seasonal Reliability Report that the state’s electrical grid is ready for summer and has “enough” power for “normal” summer conditions, based on the average climate from 2006 to 2020.

but, summer prospects Recently published by NOAA, temperatures are above average in all counties of the country.

“We continue to design and locate facilities based on historical weather patterns that we know, in the era of climate change, are not a good predictor of future conditions,” Webb told CNN.

When an ERCOT spokesperson was asked if the agency is creating a blind spot for itself by not calculating extreme weather forecasts, an ERCOT spokesperson told CNN that the report “uses a scenario approach to illustrate a set of fit results from resources based on extreme system conditions, including some extreme weather scenarios.

The North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC), the regulatory body that oversees the health of the country’s electrical infrastructure, has a less sanguine view.

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In a recent seasonal reliability report, NERC put Texas at “elevated risk” for a blackout this summer. He also mentioned that while much of the country will have enough electricity this summer, many markets are at risk of an energy emergency.

California network operators, in their summer reliability report, also built their preparedness analysis on “historical weather data from the past 20 years.” The report also notes that the assessment “does not fully reflect the uncertainty around climate-induced supplies and merchandise.”

Drought is exacerbating supply and demand problem for the US electric grid: NERC told CNN there is a 2% loss of reliable hydropower from the country’s energy-producing dams. Add to that the quick retirement of many coal-fired power plants, while just about everything from toothbrushes to cars uses electricity. Energy experts say adding more renewable energy will have the dual effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, but also increasing the country’s electricity supply.

plan B

A Chicago neighborhood is already making plans to maintain lighting, air conditioning, and heating
Power grid failure.

In the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago’s South Side, solar panels cover the roof of a public housing complex. A short distance away, a giant battery stores energy from solar panels and natural gas generators, creating a small grid. The state-owned energy company, Commonwealth Edison, works with community members to make neighborhood energy self-sufficient.

“Without power, we’re talking about potentially life-threatening situations, so this mini grid provides that backup to be able to save power even when the grid is off. [principal] It just doesn’t exist,” said Paul Pabst, an engineer at Commonwealth Edison.

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The project is awaiting approval, but once it’s up and running, the microgrid can connect and share power with the main grid. In the event of a power outage, it can be turned off and on independently, relying on stored battery power to supply homes, police station and hospital in the area for four hours.

Yami Newell is a Bronzeville resident and energy advocate. I’ve seen the ripple effects of an unreliable power grid in Chicago, a place no stranger to weather-related blackouts from both sweltering cold and sweltering heat. Losing energy in a heat wave can lead to a dangerous health situation, and for families with a fixed income, losing all the food in the fridge can be financially devastating.

“The energy crisis can turn into a public health crisis,” Newell told CNN. “It could become a food crisis.”

As communities look for innovative ways to build a more resilient network, Bronzeville is one possible model. Until countries build a more resilient power grid, climate change will force energy companies to continue taking emergency measures, such as requiring people to limit electricity use or forcing blackouts to run the grid when supplies fail. Accepting the request.