another extreme weather Incident, yet another trial of Texas’ infamous grid. As temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, residents turned on their air conditioners, forcing the Texas Electric Reliability Commission (Ercot), which operates the state’s power grid, to ask customers to limit power usage to prevent the system from crashing.
What a bizarre grid it is. The US actually has three distinct grids: the western and eastern grids roughly cut the US in half. But Texas broke away from it all, choosing to run its own business to avoid regulation. That means electricity providers don’t face penalties for failing to provide electricity, as they do in regulated states. And because it isn’t intricately connected to neighboring states’ energy grids, Texas can’t import a lot of electricity from elsewhere when demand surges, such as during a heat wave or cold snap. This isolationist stance leaves it unprepared for extreme climate change.
“Texas are again in a unique position to basically isolate themselves from the rest of the grid,” said Gnott Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School.
That has plunged the state into an increasingly nasty feedback loop: As summers get warmer, people need to run more air conditioners to avoid discomfort and heat illness. But this requires more energy, resulting in more emissions that further heat the planet and ultimately increase the demand for air conditioning. “The hotter it gets, the more AC we run, and the less reliable the grid becomes,” Wagner said.
This will be a problem all over the world, especially in economically developing countries where more and more people are joining the middle class and can afford to buy technology such as air conditioners. “Air conditioning really matters—it absolutely saves lives,” said Edith de Guzman, director and co-founder of UCLA’s Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative. “We are entering an unprecedented period: not only are heatwaves increasing in frequency, but certainly in intensity.”
This allows people to use air conditioning and have electricity more than ever before run Machines – especially those with pre-existing conditions. For example, when temperatures rise, the formation of ozone can exacerbate asthma. Older and very young people’s bodies are not as effective as cooling themselves, which puts them at greater risk. “High temperatures are the biggest weather-related killer on an average yearly basis in the United States,” de Guzman said. “This is an underestimated problem. Illness and death caused by heat may go undiagnosed.” For example, heat stress may make heart attacks more likely, but not necessarily heat as the culprit.
But America’s ancient grid remains unprepared. The Texas grid, like any other grid, needs to constantly balance supply and demand, which varies widely throughout the day. “What’s more interesting than the rise in demand, in my opinion, is that demand occurs at peaks that occur at the same time,” said David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, who co-authored a report last year on the U.S. Important report on the grid. “Not only is there higher demand, but it is at this time that this is already a critical point for the grid.”