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Texas grid failure strengthens calls to climate-proof energy infrastructure

A man and woman eat dinner by candlelight after their power goes out.
Howard and Nena Mamu eat dinner at their home in the Glenwood neighborhood in Hutto, Texas, on Tuesday. Anger over Texas' power grid failing in the face of a record winter freeze mounted this week as millions of residents in the energy capital of the U.S. were left without power.
Ricardo B. Brazziell | Austin American-Statesman via AP file

As former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke put it on MSNBC this week: “The energy capital of North America cannot provide the energy needed to warm and power people’s home.”

It’s a stark reminder that our 20th-century power grids won’t withstand our 21st-century climate much longer. An unusual cold snap in the South has left millions of Texans without power for days.

“I wouldn’t say this story is unique to Texas,” said Roshi Nateghi, an assistant professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University who studies how to improve our aging infrastructure to withstand modern and emerging challenges.

“These extreme events can range from cold snaps, to heat waves, to hurricanes, to wildfires. There’s no shortage, unfortunately, of natural disasters that hit our grids,” she said.

Department of Energy data show that severe weather and climate events are the major culprit behind large, sustained outages, which have tripled in frequency and intensity since the early 2000s, Nateghi said.

She joined Climate Cast with some ideas on how to improve grid resilience. Click play on the audio player above or subscribe tp the Climate Cast podcast to learn more.

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