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Could the Texas energy crisis happen in Colorado? Unlikely, but climate change a concern

Winter Weather Texas Power Failures eletrical grid
Posted at 2:57 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 20:03:31-05

DENVER — Record-breaking cold weather blasted the state of Texas and plunged the state into an energy crisis.

Millions of people were left without power because of grid failures, and it begs the question: Could something like this happen in Colorado?

Steve Roalstad, spokesman for the Platte River Power Authority, said that because Texas isn’t really connected to other grids across the country, it’s difficult to compare.

"The Texas grid is known as ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and it is a self-contained grid that is owned and regulated largely by the state of Texas," Roalstad. "Our grid is primarily along the front range of Colorado, but we do have connections to the western areas of the United States, all the way out to the west coast."

Still, over the weekend, Platte River Power Authority asked their customers to reduce their energy consumption.

"We did have very tight supplies because our natural gas source was used for home heating," Roalstad said. "So as a result, we did purchase power on the market from utilities in the southwest part of the country but then we also asked our customers to minimize their consumption as much as possible."

CU Boulder assistant professor Kyri Baker said Colorado’s grid is prepared to handle extreme temperatures, but Baker worries about the stress on our grid because of climate change.

"Since our summers are getting hotter in Colorado and more people are installing air conditioners, my house didn’t have one and now it does," Baker said. "The load on the grid is significantly higher than when it was originally designed."

But Roalstad said they are prepared for that rise because of air conditioners.

"Air conditioning is a phenomenon that really emerged in the 1980s and 90s and it is a part of every new home that is being built today so we have had to plan for this kind of demand for customers for many years now," Roalstad said.

Denver7 chief meteorologist Mike Nelson said climate change is having an impact on power grids and will continue to do so.

"We’re seeing storms that are becoming more unusual — some call it 'global-weirding' — and so we’re getting a wide variety of weather conditions, and we need to harden our power grid systems across the country to better withstand whether it's hurricanes, winter storms, fires that we saw in California. This is all an issue and it’s all related to climate change," Nelson said.

If anything, the crisis in Texas sounded an alarm to power companies across the country that are working to be as prepared as possible for the dangers ahead.