The Power Sector’s Tough Lessons Learned This Winter

By Teri Viswanath

April 1, 2021

Key Points

  • The February 2021 winter storm and widespread power outages have raised new concerns about the future of grid resilience. With climate change now causing major shifts in historic weather patterns and producing more frequent and severe extremes, electric cooperatives need to reconsider their approach to resource planning.
  • The polar outbreak set dozens of new low-temperature records, challenging regional power systems in a wide swath of the country, but Texas was disproportionately affected. Why? A number of factors played a role, including the lack of climate resiliency planning (winterization) and market design.
  • It may be instructive to think about these disruptions as a kind of a dress rehearsal for a greater, more disruptive event. The tough lesson learned is that while the U.S. is growing more and more dependent on electricity, growing high-cost disasters jeopardize our energy resilience. We need to get to work fortifying our power system, physically and economically.
  • We envision that the hard-won insights gained over the past season will lead to better climate resilience planning. Those plans will include continuing to build out localized infrastructure. But to enable that local resiliency, we need additional investment to shore up our “macrogrid.”

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