Americans across the country were shocked by the news stories and video footage coming out of Texas – snow measured in feet, Arctic temperatures, cars sliding on roads, water gushing through the ceilings of residential homes and people lining up for water. Millions went without power for days and an estimated 15 million lost access to clean water. Damage from the storm is estimated to reach into the billions, possibly rivaling the damage from Hurricane Harvey a few years ago.
The culprit? Winter Storm Uri, which laid bare numerous issues with Texas’ energy and water infrastructure for the entire country to see. And the question on everyone’s minds is, “How could this have happened – in Texas, of all places – the most energy-rich state in the country?”
To discuss this and other issues related to Texas’ energy grid, Aaron Lauinger, Ulteig’s market director-Transportation and Water, and host of the Ulteig Energy and Infrastructure podcast, is joined by Brian Sharpe, Ulteig market director-Power, Sarah Beckman, program director-Key Clients, and Chad Crabtree, Ulteig market director-Renewables, for a robust discussion about lessons learned from the disastrous storm that hit Texas.
“There’s so much to process about what happened in Texas,” said Sharpe. “But we need to face facts – what many consider as a rare extreme weather event is becoming more common and bringing with it, more risk for power companies and their customers.”
Other key points discussed by the Ulteig energy and infrastructure team, include:
Resiliency – All power companies need to study what happened in Texas and start thinking about how to make their grids more resistant to extreme weather events. “Do we just wait for the next 100-year storm?,” asked Chad Crabtree, “No, I don’t think so. I think there is an opportunity for us to take the lessons learned from this event and provide new economic incentives for utilities to make changes.”
Balance – All utilities need to strike a balance between being a low-cost producer versus providing utility services that are safe and reliable. The fact is, it can be very difficult and costly to design for a 100-year storm event like Winter Storm Uri, however, it’s clear that with more extreme weather caused by climate change and global warming, utilities need to build in more resiliency.
Weighing Costs – All utilities, not just energy, need to weigh the costs of their investments. “It will be interesting to see what the costs are from the damage caused by the storm versus what would have been the cost of building a more resilient energy system, such as adding winterization packages to wind turbines,” said Lauinger.
What all of the panelists agreed upon is that real lives were lost in this tragic event, and that millions of Texans endured hardship, which could have been prevented if different regulations or different marketplace practices (e.g., connection of ERCOT to other power grids) had been in place.
The purpose of the Ulteig Energy and Infrastructure Podcast is to share insights about relevant and newsworthy topics of interest to energy and infrastructure engineers and leaders. To hear the full Energy and Infrastructure podcast, click here.