February 14, 2022
The grid failure in Texas this time last year went far beyond the state’s border, and consumer advocates say it means the country needs to shore up its energy infrastructure.
Brian Edstrom, senior regulatory advocate for the nonprofit Citizens Utility Board in Minnesota, said the infrastructure bill recently signed into law by President Joe Biden provides a start. But there was considerable damage to consumers in northern states when Texans cranked up their electric heaters to cope with Winter Storm Uri.
“During that storm when it was so cold in Texas, it was also extremely cold up here,” Edstrom recounted. “Minnesotans were using a lot of gas to heat their homes and many of those costs are now being passed through to Minnesotan customers.”
Edstorm pointed out in Minnesota, gas prices rose to 70 times their normal level while gas prices in western Wisconsin rose from $2.60 to more than $200 on February 17. In Texas, at one point more than three million people were without power, resulting in 246 deaths across 77 counties.
The Texas electric grid is separate from two other major grids serving the U.S., leaving consumers at risk because it is unable to borrow power from neighboring states.
But Edstrom noted vulnerabilities are not exclusive to Texas, and more severe weather events due to climate change are likely.