Here’s a fun fact: The US has three power grids – the western grid, the eastern grid … and Texas. Texas has never wanted to connect their power grid with other states because that would involve federal oversight – something the Lone Star State is not fond of.
And usually, this is fine, because Texas produces more energy than it consumes. But when, say, a freak winter storm stresses the power grid, the state cannot borrow energy from the national grids, and blackouts ensue.
So, why exactly are windmills being blamed for power outages? Let’s have a look.
Winter Storm, 2021
Texas faced record-low temperatures this February, with temperatures in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio falling below temperatures in Anchorage, Alaska. The winter storm caused a record low temperature of −2 °F (−19 °C) in Dallas on Feb. 16, the coldest it’s been in the region for 72 years. Snow and ice made roads impassable and the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation had actually published recommendations to upgrade and winterize the Texas power grid exactly a decade ago following the 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard to protect against freak incidents like these. The recommendations were ignored because implementing the upgrades were deemed too costly.
The Groundhog Day blizzard caused $3.9 billion in total losses. The 2021 Winter Storm caused $19 billion in property damage alone, making it the costliest storm in the state’s history. And, every indication suggests freak weather incidents are only going to get more common.
Environmentalism gone mad
On Feb. 15, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the ability of some companies – including those that operated gas and coal generators – to generate power had been frozen. He nonetheless falsely claimed that “The Texas power grid has not been compromised.”
The very next day on Fox News, however, he levied blame exclusively on green energy like solar and wind, claiming their unreliability caused the power grid failures. He also felt the need to connect the crisis to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal.”
“This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America,” Abbot said on Sean Hannity’s show.
Other Republican politicians couldn’t help but capitalize on this narrative. Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines took it upon himself to retweet a picture of a wind turbine being defrosted with chemicals, arguing this is a reason to oppose Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, who has supported wind energy in the past.
Former Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, who served under the Trump administration, appeared on a Fox News segment that contained the chyron, “Storm Shutters Green Energy,” where he stated that the current situation in Texas is the reason why fossil fuels should continue to be the main energy source.
Nothing more than political brigading
Republican politicians overwhelmed the media with the narrative that green energy is dangerous and irresponsible because Texas’ power grid failed.
This could not be further from the truth. According to ERCOT, the company that manages the flow of 90% of Texas’s electric load, wind energy supplied only about 23% of the state’s energy demands in all of 2020. Seventy-two percent of the energy – the overwhelming majority – was sourced from coal, gas and nuclear energy.
Wind capacity had indeed lowered during the Winter Storm, but the failures of gas, coal and nuclear to contribute the expected bulk of needed power caused the outages. Frozen pipes, iced roads and the general incapacity of Texas’ power grid to handle the cold snap caused the latter failures.
What of the picture of frozen turbines retweeted by Sen. Daines? Turns out it’s actually a picture from 2015 of a helicopter de-icing a frozen wind turbine in Sweden with hot water, not chemicals. Just, of course, it’s fake news.
With natural disasters, there is almost always a next time. With human-caused climate change driving the increase in freak weather incidents like the Texas Winter Storm, there definitely will be a next time. We know that the most effective way to reverse the damage done is to move away from fossil fuels and towards green, renewable energy.
To draw a connection between failing power grids and green energy is to promote a dangerously insidious narrative that fuels climate-change skepticism. It confirms fears that the climate crisis is overblown fluff that is not only ineffective, but actively dangerous.
Few things are more necessary in modern life than a continuous supply of electricity. Let’s not compromise our grids and put lives at risk because of partisan scuffling. When will we learn to spot a favorite politician’s lie?
Were you affected or in Texas during the storm? Let us know what you think in the comments below!