The recent snowstorms in Texas, which led to devastation and the loss of power and water for many families, have called to attention whether privatized energy grids, especially when coupled with continued changes in climate, are truly sustainable.
Climate-related emergencies have been growing more and more common, with the recent wildfires in California and Oregon also serving as a notable incident. However, the transition to renewable energy is still facing great opposition. The disaster in Texas wasn’t completely unprecedented, as a similar storm of a milder degree occurred 10 years ago. Climate scientists warned state officials about future climate-related crises in the future, but the lack of initiative and regulatory measures on utility infrastructure has led to the current events.
Many Texans blamed the energy shortage on wind turbines that couldn’t operate in the cold. However, this is inaccurate due to the lack of reliance on renewable energy in Texas, with it only being the source of about 20% of electricity. Additionally, wind turbines, along with natural gas plants, fuel pipelines, and nuclear power stations, can all withstand cold weather, as seen in Antarctica, but system upgrades are needed and were not present in Texas, despite warnings.
The main problem was the lack of regulatory oversight on the privatized power grid along with the lack of connection to the rest of the country. Connection to the rest of the country would make it so they could buy power from neighboring states but would lead to federal regulations which state officials do not want to be subject to.
This crisis had a disproportionate impact on poorer communities composed of mostly minorities, as these towns had their energy shutoff first due to the lack of large critical facilities in a nearby radius. Low-income communities also lack quality housing with adequate insulation and weatherization which led to them being highly vulnerable during the crisis.
Additionally, energy checks racked up to much higher prices due to supply and demand, which harmed all Texas residents. Some suppliers even took advantage of the nature of the market and withheld energy to manipulate the market and receive more profit, leading to a disastrous increase in prices, with them skyrocketing up to $9,000 per megawatt at the peak of the crisis.
Ideally, the failure of the energy grid in Texas will inspire change in energy infrastructure, along with more climate awareness and inspiration to move towards renewable energy as more and more devastating events occur.