As climate impacts intensify, power grids stuffed with ageing fossil fuel infrastructure crumble
Climate change is full of surprises. We were warned about heatwaves, hurricanes and high-intensity firestorms. What we didn’t see coming was a cynical, cyclical economy of blackout bullshit. As climate impacts intensify, power grids stuffed with ageing fossil fuel infrastructure crumble. Those blackouts are usually blamed on wind and solar – and used to extend the lifespan of existing fossil fuel generators. Opportunity costs increase, climate impacts worsen and blackouts intensify. It’s an accelerating death spiral.
Last week Texas suffered an outage likely to be the worst on record in the US. Millions of people were without power for days, initially at a scale roughly equivalent to all of eastern Australia going dark at once. A burst of winter weather froze vital components at power stations, gas supplies were limited by frozen pipelines and, consequently, a third of the state’s thermal power stations were offline (mostly gas). An unspecified proportion of wind turbines were disabled due to icing and low-temperature shutoffs, but “gas and coal were actually the biggest culprits in the crisis”, Eric Fell, director of North America gas at Wood Mackenzie, told Bloomberg.