Texas, unaccustomed to the frigid temperatures that would pass for a normal winter in other parts of the country, should consider connecting its power grid to nearby states and take better preparations for what are likely to be more extreme weather events caused by a changing climate, according to Northeastern faculty experts.
Texas is unique in that its grid isn’t linked to the rest of the country because it didn’t want to have to comply with federal electricity regulations for selling power across state lines, explains Jennie C. Stephens, dean’s professor of sustainability science and policy at Northeastern.
“The problem with that is in the very cold conditions, the demand for electricity went way up and they didn’t have sufficient supply,” says Stephens, who is also director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and director of strategic research collaborations in the Global Resilience Institute.
Had a similar storm happened in New England, which is used to harsh winter weather, the area is connected to a broader network and could have had more potential energy sources to draw from, she adds.
But in Texas’s case, balancing high demand with lower capacity resulted in controlled, rolling blackouts similar to what California instituted over the hot summer when air conditioners ran virtually nonstop, she says.