Soaring temperatures may become a double-edged sword for tens of millions of Americans this summer if experts are proven correct. Predictions are for an overworked power grid to stumble in the face of record temperatures and persistent drought.
Of particular concern are California, Texas, and the Midwest.
All 58 counties in California are under a drought emergency declaration, and hydropower generation is much more difficult under current conditions. Officials already warn of energy shortfalls forcing a million households into darkness this summer.
One Northern California dam went offline last year for five whole months due to lack of water in the reservoir. This was a first for the facility, which became operational in 1967.
Texas officials recently declared that the state expects to have enough electricity for the hot summer. Then, just days later, the state asked residents to conserve electricity due to high temperatures and record demand.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC), the regulatory body that oversees electrical grid operations in the U.S. and Canada, blames the persistent drought for lower hydropower generation and intense wildfires.
It warns that an extreme heat event in these conditions may spur “energy emergencies.” Interestingly, NERC cites Texas’ increased dependence on wind and solar power as a possible issue. It warns that in “extreme peak demand” coupled with low wind, rolling blackouts may again be possible.
A January 2022 report from the agency cited the retirement of coal and natural gas plants being replaced by wind and solar power. Experts note the need for the “right mix of resources,” including the traditional “always on” units along with newer technologies that are not always available.
The Midwest faces higher risk due to the recent retirement of older plants. As demand increases yearly, NERC says the region’s energy production capability actually decreased 2.3% from last summer.
The South and Northeast are in good shape and mostly exempt from the warnings.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday called for higher than normal temperatures in nearly every region of the country this summer. This comes in a week where over half of Americans face temperatures at or above 90 degrees. In May.