Blackouts in energy-rich Texas are a wake-up call for knife-edge Britain. We must be careful that the rush to decarbonise doesn’t mean you can no longer keep the lights on. If you are going to call your quango the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, it is not a good sign when your website goes down. Contacting electricity providers is just one of the problems that the people of the second most populous US state have had to contend with in the past week as blackouts followed record cold temperatures. At one point on Tuesday, half the state’s normal power capacity was out of action. Predictably enough, Texas’s frosted landscape has become a battleground between climate change sceptics, who blame iced-up wind farms for the power outages and say the cold weather disproves theories of a warming climate, and the green brigade, who point out that the greater part of the problem this week has been frozen gas infrastructure, and claim that freezing temperatures are actually evidence of an overheating Earth. In America as in Britain, debate is becoming fixated on decarbonising energy without thinking enough about resilience. We have targets for closing coal-fired power stations and for achieving net zero; we spend rather less time thinking about how to keep the lights on during times of stress, whether it be through natural or man-made disaster. We invest in more and more intermittent forms of energy such as wind and solar while the provision of energy storage lags well behind, resulting in several close shaves recently as the wind dropped and the sun went down. The problem of resilience is only going to get worse as we become ever more reliant on the electricity grid. At the moment, if the power goes down, you can still drive your car, and you might have an open fire or a gas-powered Aga which still keeps you warm. In future, most homes and vehicles will be entirely electric.
Telegraph 19th Feb 2021 read more »