Selected tags: Extreme Weather

Demand Response Helps Texas Avoid Rolling Blackouts in the Face of Polar Vortex

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This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog

As we begin a new year, the outlook for 2014 looks bright.  But as the Polar Vortex has descended upon the U.S. over the last few days, we have been reminded of the past, specifically the winter of 2011 when Texas’ electricity grid stuttered under the extreme cold.

Monday, as a record-breaking cold snap whisked over the U.S., the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s grid operator, warned of possible blackouts, just as they did in 2011.  We were lucky this time, but in February of 2011 we were not, and blackouts occurred throughout the state.

ERCOT’s warning meant that the grid's power reserves “dropped below a comfortable threshold,” and the "system was just one step away from rolling blackouts” as the need for energy outpaced supply.  As these blackout threats loomed, two power plants succumbed to the cold and went down.  The loss in capacity amounted to about 3700 megawatts (MW), with 1800 MW lost due to the cold.  According to Dan Woodfin, ERCOT’s Director of System Operations, “if we had lost another unit it would have put us into an Energy Emergency Alert Three” – the stage that prompts rolling blackouts.  This is unnecessary and unacceptable. Read More »

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New Jersey Takes Initial Step Toward Modernizing Its Vulnerable Energy Infrastructure

When Hurricane Sandy barreled through our country’s Northeast nearly a year ago, ravaging coastlines and submerging entire neighborhoods, New Jersey suffered catastrophic effects.  The state suffered more than $30 billion in damage, most of it along the Jersey shore, while an estimated 2.6 million households lost power, many of them for weeks.  Five days after Sandy hit, a third of New Jersey’s homes and businesses still did not have electricity.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie immediately sought to restore the state’s most vital infrastructure and was tireless in attracting funds for the relief effort.  However, it became clear that it was imperative to not just repair damage caused by Sandy but to upgrade and modernize the state’s outmoded, century-old grid to prevent damage from the next superstorm.

Last week, Governor Christie took a positive  step toward upgrading to a smarter, more flexible  power grid, which is crucial to resilience, safety, and storm recovery.  He announced the allocation of $25 million in federal funds to local governments to develop alternative energy projects designed to make New Jersey’s energy infrastructure resilient and reliable in the face of power outages.

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