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With the ongoing climate crisis, places that aren’t used to extreme weather conditions have begun to bear the brunt of them. Wildfires are spreading to fuel-abundant regions of the world that were less prone to burning. Stronger hurricanes are happening yearly and the frequency of them are no longer “once in a life” events or seasons. The latest example is the frigid winter storm and power failure in the U.S. state of Texas that left millions of people in unusual cold and without power and a death toll of up to 58 people so far. This most recent round of extreme weather has thrown renewable energy to the forefront once more, with people arguing for and against it. This will only continue with more severe weather, now is the time to separate fact from fiction with regards to renewable energy.

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Understanding Texas:

Texas, unlike the rest of the continental United States, relies mostly on its own power grid and is overseen by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (Ercot). Since this grid is much smaller than the two main grids that power the rest of the continental U.S., it has much smaller reserves. Because Texas is a mostly hot and dry state, its power and electrical equipment, both fossil and renewable, weren’t properly winterised. This has left  the state vulnerable to extended periods of cold weather. The extended demand for electricity and heating during this time resulted in a surge in demand across the state, resulting in rolling blackouts. Coupled with the freezing utilities on an already ageing grid, people were left freezing without power for days.


The Blame Game:


Within a matter of hours, the blame was already being placed on renewable energy sources. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and other state politicians blamed renewables, citing frozen wind turbines as an example of their unreliability. American conservative talk show hosts have branded renewables as “silly fashion accessories prone to failure” and referred to wind turbines as windmills. President Joe Biden’s proposed climate reform was also targeted with the state’s agricultural commissioner going as far as to say that “we should never build another wind turbine in Texas”. However, renewable energy only accounts for about 20% of the states energy grid. Ercot has already stated that outages from solar and wind energy were only a minor factor in blackouts. Even so, in a state that has the largest oil reserves in the country, the backlash is growing. And while Greg Abbott has since backtracked on his previous comments on renewables and blamed the failure on all power sources, the damage was done.


Understanding The Realities:


At the end of the day, it is the lack of the winterisation of both fossil fuel and renewable energy equipment as well as a lack of reserve power that led to the state’s downfall. The use of targeted disinformation and conspiracy theories will continue to dampen the potential that renewable energy possesses. 2 and a half years after our blog post on the myths about renewables, a lot of the same myths are still circulating. While politicians are quick to claim that renewable energy isn’t reliable and that fossil fuels are necessary, this is not the case. With sufficient investment, electricity from renewables can provide electricity 24/7. Different types of renewable energy sources working together can ensure continuity of supply.

Addressing renewables with a haphazard approach also won’t cut it. Proper investment needs to be made for people to see and believe in the benefits. Wind and solar energy in the U.S. need to increase their current capacity up to five times by 2050 in order to reach net-zero emissions. Other countries around the world are also struggling to meet yearly targets for a net-zero future. Wild weather, to an extent, will always be a part of nature, however, we have the “power” to limit the damage they can do by ditching fossil fuels in favour of renewable energy sources. With proper infrastructure and meeting net-zero targets, we will be better prepared for what is to come.