Could Texas’s Powergrid Failure Just be the Beginning?

By: Lucas Green | Contributor

Photo credit: npr.org.

A historical winter storm blasted the United States from Feb. 13-17, but nowhere felt the effects harder than Texas, and it may be just the beginning.

Texas is unique from the majority of the U.S. in that it has a private power grid from any other state. Many Texans and Texas politicians carry this as a sense of pride since they do not have to rely on federal assistance, allowing their power grid to maintain a free market and low regulations. While little regulation of Texas’s power grid keeps costs low for its customers, it causes some problems in emergencies.

The Texas state government currently runs the power grid, so there is barely any incentive for power companies to invest in  “winterization” (preparing for severe cold weather) and to have generators on stand-by for emergency power. In multiple other states and power grids, this is a requirement. It makes sense for Texas, though, since the state regularly sees mild winters and is not concerned with severe cold or snow.

When February’s winter storm causes Texas to lose 46,000 megawatts of power state-wide, this lack of regulation causes Texas’ infrastructure to collapse. Along with the suffering that comes with the severe cold, the once low power bills are upwards of $5,000 for some residents in the hardest-hit areas, and recovery efforts are still underway.

While Texas continues to recover as politicians try to devise a solution for Texans’ economic and personal suffering, along with finding a way to prevent this again, many other southeastern states are asking themselves if this could happen to them next.

Alabama operates on a system similar to Texas as much of its power grid is run by Alabama Power. Much of Alabama Power’s infrastructure is out-of-date. Some systems under Alabama Power’s authority date back to even the 60s and deliver energy via above-ground powerlines.

Alabama’s power grid problems became abundantly apparent following Hurricane Sally as the current infrastructure was easily knocked out. Alabama Power worked quickly to restore power following the storm, but many are left wondering what would happen if a winter storm knocked out power and nobody could get out to restore the power.

Much of the state wants to move towards below-ground powerlines that would help prevent long-term outages in instances like Sally, but the problem comes down to funding. Politicians are still unsure how to get the funding to move the state to a more reliable power delivery form.

Until an answer is found, Alabama continues to remain at risk from not only tornadoes and hurricanes but also winter storms as climate change continues to become more drastic.