In Aug. 2020, California received criticism for its handling of rolling power outages throughout the state. In Feb. 2021, Texas also went through its own power crisis.
California energy officials estimated the rolling energy blackouts in Aug. 2020 left as many as 2 million residents without power.
The main cause for this issue was a single 500-megawatt generator went offline during peak energy usage hours. According to the national weather service, the underlying issue was California reaching a record-breaking heat wave, with a dozen Bay Area cities tying or setting record high temperatures.
As Californians continued to rely on air conditioning units to battle the heat wave, the strain on the state’s energy generators rose, leading to the generators to eventually fail. With several thousand residents left with no escape from the heat, California Gov. Gavin Newsom sent out a tweet begging people to reduce the use of unnecessary energy to help ease the tension of the already failing energy system.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz quoted this tweet with his own opinion of the situation, stating, “Biden/Harris/AOC want CA’s failed energy policy to be the standard nationwide. Hope you don’t like air conditioning!”
Just six months later, on Feb.10, 2021, Texas unexpectedly had its own energy crisis to deal with as about 4.5 million Texas residents were affected by power outages, according to poweroutage.us.
The leading cause of these outages was an unexpected snowstorm that led to single-degree temperatures and covered Texas in snow.
California’s power grid is connected to one of the main grids that runs through the entire country, and the state can draw power from outside the state to assist the power crisis. Texas has refused to connect to one of these grids, relying on their individual energy production.
As temperatures in Texas plummeted, residents relied heavily on heating systems in their homes and consumed a high amount of electricity. According to the state’s power grid operator, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, cold temperatures froze natural gas supply lines and stopped wind turbines from spinning. This dropped the energy supply by 46,000 watts as energy consumption reached yearly peaks around 86,000 watts.
Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, tweeted, “Every one of our sources of power supply underperformed”
Weather is a huge factor in the energy failure of both Texas and California, and these issues are not unheard of, however there are no unanimous national regulations regarding the standards of these power grids because the weather varies from state to state.
Power generators in Wisconsin for example, are designed to battle cold weather conditions with insulation and heated pipes. As Texas struggled from snowy temperatures a power grid like Wisconsin’s was built so, “that it can get down to 40 degrees below zero and even stays there for a few days.” says Madison Gas and Electric spokesman Steve Shultz.
As Texas continues to reject connecting to the national power grid, there remains a possibility these dangerous power outages will happen again if the weather reaches similar conditions.