Texans are still traumatized by the winter storm of 2021. And why wouldn’t they be? Over 4.5 million customers were left without power, some for several days. Estimates differ, but even the most conservative claim at least 210 people died because of the outages. People living in the richest country in the world don’t expect things like that to happen.
So, almost two years later, you’d expect the Texas grid to be ready for another storm, right? Think again. According to a recent article in the Texas Tribune, not much has changed: “As it happened, not a single company thought reviving an old power plant made sense, and the Nov. 6 deadline passed without a single proposal to revive a power source for the winter.”
To be fair, many of the gas plants that failed in 2021 have winterized their facilities at the behest of regulators, and $5 billion in low-interest loans have been approved for new gas-fired plants—but those won’t come on line for years.
What can Texas do to prevent another winter disaster? Energy efficiency seems like an obvious choice. Options are plentiful: Incentives for attic insulation, smart thermostats, electric furnace upgrades, electric water heaters, heat pumps, and demand response programs that would target air conditioning, ev charging, and water heating. Many of these initiatives are on the table right now because Texas has failed to invest in basic energy efficiency measures over the years. It’s low hanging fruit, really.