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Extreme Weather is Making the Power Grid Less Reliable

Extreme Weather is Making the Power Grid Less Reliable

Our access to food, water, heat and lighting depends on our access to electricity. Therefore, as extreme weather events become more frequent and intense, power outages increase in duration and frequency as well and our access to these living essentials are inhibited. According to the Eaton Blackout Tracker, between 2012 and 2016 alone there was a 45% increase in summer outages due to extreme weather conditions. These numbers are only on a rise: 2019 and 2020 were the hottest years recorded in earth’s history, and 36 million people a year are impacted by outages.

The United States has faced extreme weather events that have stunned various locations throughout the country, from California to Texas. One thing is for certain: heightened changes in climate are increasing the frequency of severe and debilitating storms.

Mostly due to high costs and inconvenience of burying them, the majority of America’s power lines are above ground. This makes them susceptible to damage from extreme weather conditions. As a result, our accessibility to power is disrupted.
The problem lies in efforts to better pre-existing infrastructure to help against extreme weather, calling on the necessity to build more durable, economic, and sustainable ways of powering electricity. As we are reliant on one main aging electricity system, it is important to recognize industry trends that contribute to the reliability of the power grid. As evident in the graph below, the majority of New England’s energy sources come from natural gas, nuclear energy and net imports. This adds to the challenge of improving our national grid structure because current leading energy sources are also the leading causes of climate change.

Percent Of Electric Energy By Resouce Type

Research and Trends on Power Outages

It is clear that America’s aging electric grid cannot uphold new and worsening weather conditions. In a study done by Climate Central, it was shown that weather-related power outages in the U.S. have increased 67% since 2000. The leading cause of power outages in the U.S. is poor weather conditions, and it comes at a cost: the harsh incline of power outages in recent years has cost the U.S. several billions of dollars in damage and reparation fees. The chart below shows increased extreme weather conditions throughout the past decade, and more.

Extreme Weather On The Rise

The top areas to see extreme outages in the continental U.S. include Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and California. High winds, heatwaves, and winter storms are just some of the leading causes of power outages. As these conditions have increased due to heightened climate changes, it leaves detrimental impacts on how people live. Luckily, solutions are possible. The chart below shows where weather conditions are the worst in the country.

Climate Disasters

The Solution

With our current power grid being reliant on weather for its functionality, it is imperative that a new system is built to run better on its own to withstand the pressure and extreme conditions that continue to impact the lives of millions. This can include underground power lines, or more importantly, fixing the fossil fuel generation.
The majority of America’s energy source runs off resources that are directing issues in our climate including coal, oil and natural gas. This brings forth the importance of installing
zero-carbon energy sources (solar, wind) into a new power grid. Because solar panels work through sunlight, it is equally important to not rely on a single energy source for the nation’s power. Having a diversity of sustainable energy sources will ensure that we are not reliant on one sole energy generator. Utilizing renewable energy sources can contribute to grid reliability in that it is more flexible and can respond to changes quickly, and renewables often provide diverse sources of energy, according to Clean Choice Energy.
Solar and battery backup generators, for the first time ever, are more affordable in the U.S. and provide a clean, silent, maintenance-free alternative to fossil fuels as electricity sources. In contributing to a more resilient and sustainable grid, solar energy generation with battery storage provides an economically viable and environmentally friendly opportunity for energy in times of increased demand.

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