MEMO: Texas Disaster Underscores Urgent Need to Invest in Clean Energy Infrastructure
TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Lori Lodes, Climate Power Executive Director
RE: Texas Disaster Underscores Urgent Need to Invest in Clean Energy Infrastructure
The tragic and devastating consequences of Winter Storm Uri, which slowed down vaccination efforts, and left 69 individuals in five states dead and millions without power and water, have highlighted the urgent need to make transformational investments in clean energy infrastructure. Bold investments to modernize the American electrical grid and build back better with clean energy will save lives, combat climate change, and create millions of good-paying union jobs.
The situation in Texas underscores why bold infrastructure investments are necessary and urgent. The Texas electrical grid collapsed and knocked out power in much of Texas after natural gas, coal, and nuclear generators failed due to disinvestment, deregulation, and the repeated failure to prepare for extreme weather events. These power outages underscored the dire need to modernize the country’s electrical infrastructure and exposed the unreliability of oil, gas, and coal, despite attempts to shift blame away from the fossil fuel lobby.
Investments in clean energy and modernizing our infrastructure y, as President Biden has proposed as part of his plan to Build Back Better, could help prevent future mass blackouts caused by climate-fueled winter storms and other extreme weather events. Not only will these investments create millions of new good-paying union clean energy jobs, but they will also help stave off other climate-fueled disasters. Improving grid reliability and weatherizing homes to reduce sudden demand would also create jobs, lower electricity bills, and reduce emissions. More than 72,000 clean energy jobs would be created inTexas from grid modernization and other investments in clean energy and energy efficiency — the largest jobs gain of any state.
Big Oil apologists’ false narrative against renewable energy doesn’t hold weight. Even though the widespread blackouts and power grid failures were primarily caused by freezing temperatures shutting down natural gas production, freezing pipelines, and knocking out nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired power plants, some Republican politicians in Texas like Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw and right-wing media figures like Tucker Carlson falsely blamed the crisis on renewable energy and spread misinformation and lies on social media and the airwaves. Over just two days, Fox News falsely blamed the crisis on renewable energy 128 times.
Despite attacks from Big Oil allies in Congress and Big Oil blaming renewable energy for the outages, the truth is: the blackouts weren’t caused by renewable energy, and they would have been much worse if it weren’t for wind and solar sources. Extra wind and solar output helped ease the stress on the grid and restore service to some customers, according to ERCOT, the Texas energy grid operator, and according to UT energy researcher Joshua Rhodes.
Voters see through these false attacks and attempts by Gov. Abbott and others to shift blame. Few voters blame renewable energy for the crisis, while most voters blame Texas officials, ERCOT, and utilities. In addition, half of all voters fault oil and gas companies, and a majority cite climate change as a factor.
Astronomical utility bills in Texas are directly correlated to fossil fuel failures, deregulation. Texas’ deregulated electricity market and “Wild West market design” offer consumers a complicated array of options to purchase electricity, many of which swing wildly with market rates for electricity. With no requirements to modernize or winterize the power system, the Texas market disincentives essential investments to ensure reliable and affordable electricity. After natural gas generation, which accounts for more than half of power generation capacity in Texas, collapsed and prices surged, some Texans found themselves with electric bills topping $10,000. The surging prices also caused ERCOT computers to order even more widespread blackouts than otherwise would have been necessary.
A new Wall Street Journal analysis found that Texas residential consumers paid a whopping $28 billion more for electricity over the past 17 years thanks to deregulation.
Make no mistake, the severe winter storms like the one that hit Texas and much of the country this past week are becoming more intense and more frequent as a result of climate change. These conditions will continue to create economic burdens for those being left to bear the brunt of the climate crisis — especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. We urgently need a clean energy infrastructure package that revitalizes the electric grid, creates millions of good-paying union jobs and addresses the climate crisis.