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Lessons From Texas

Recently, we saw in Texas what happens when the electric grid breaks down–chaos, confusion and human suffering. There is a lot of “finger-pointing” going on right now, but I think that a lot of the lessons learned from this will be based primarily upon common sense.

The most obvious conclusion is that the electric grid is under-built for such catastrophes. It has been built, in general, for fluctuations in demand and supply but nothing like what Texas experienced. The “deep-thinkers” who regulate the grid are going to have to change their planning model.

A second “lesson” from the Texas outage is that when it comes to stabilizing the grid, working with other states can be beneficial. Texas decided not to participate in a regional grid relationship like we have with other states here in the northeast. Perhaps, Texas should rethink its “go it alone” policy.

It also appears that it wasn’t just one area of energy supply that failed in Texas. The freezing cold and snow increased electricity demand while, at the same time, decreasing the supply of wind, solar, and fossil fuel plants producing electricity into the grid. There was a lot of blame to pass around on all sides.

However, the biggest lesson in Texas may apply to our attitude toward energy itself going forward–the future of the grid is going to continue to require a balance of various energy supplies. Renewables are not enough on their own. It is going to take decades of using the cleanest fossil fuels along with renewables for us to ensure a reliable electric grid.

Bringing all of this home to New York State–there has been a lot of blather around here about eliminating all fossil fuel in the next decade or two. That is a pipe dream. What if we were all-electric in New York, and the grid broke down like it did in Texas. Would you like that?

Not only would you be out of heat and light, but you would have no “juice” to charge up your car battery. At least, in Texas, people still had cars running on gasoline that they could drive to a place where they could warm up. No heat, no light and no car? No thank you.

My experience in the energy business generally is that people want it and need it. They just don’t want to have to go through the inconvenience of dealing with it. “Please put that pipeline or electric line in someone else’s back yard; and, by the way, I still want electricity and an affordable way to heat my house!”

One lesson I am sure we learned from Texas is that we all now realize that the electric grid cannot be taken for granted. So, that means I should probably try to diversify my energy options. When all of the cars become electric, I think I will keep at least one vehicle around that has a gasoline engine.

And, as to heating my house, no thank you electricity. I think I will keep my natural gas furnace and stove. Then when all of the lights go out, I can still stay warm and cook my food!

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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