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100 million Americans under heat alerts

In Texas, local officials are calling for residents to conserve power where they can as energy demands throughout the state test the power grid.
100 million Americans under heat alerts
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 13, 2023

Triple digit temperatures are pounding the southwest and breaking records all across the country.   

More than 111 million people were under extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings this week, according to the National Weather Service.  

In Texas, local officials are calling for residents to conserve power where they can as energy demands throughout the state test the power grid.  

Alison Silverstein is a consultant and former senior advisor with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  

"Every year in Texas has been hotter than the year before, for like 30 years now, thanks to climate change," said Silverstein.

Silverstein says Texas' exploding population and business growth is partly to blame.   

"We did not design the grid with the intention or capability to keep up with that in terms of generation," she said. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas or ERCOT covers 25 million customers or 90% of the state’s electrical load.  

SEE MORE: US heat wave roasts nation with triple-digit temperatures

In February of 2021 extreme cold led to a power grid failure, blackouts all over Texas and hundreds of deaths. Demand is high this summer, too, but ERCOT says the grid will hold up.

Michael Webber is a professor at the University of Texas. He says unlike the rest of the country, the Lone Star State’s power grid stands alone and isn’t inter-connected with the rest of the country — which can make it less reliable.  

"We built a lot of wind, a lot of solar, a lot of batteries and some natural gas plants in the last few years, we have more capacity. And as long as it doesn’t break, it's pretty good," said Webber. "Texas is one of three grids in America — it’s East, West and Texas. We stand alone for a whole variety of cultural and political and policy reasons which means when times are tough, we can't lean on our neighbors for help the way the other states can, we're on our own."

But the rest of the country faces high demand this season, just like Texas. According to the North American Energy Reliability Corporation, "two-thirds of North America is at risk of energy shortfalls this summer during periods of extreme demand." 

"Heat is the silent killer," Webber said. "It doesn't come with the noise of wind, or the obvious clouds or the storms that tell you something is coming. That means people who are already at risk — people with obesity, people with heart problems, you name it — if they're exposed to heat too long, the body just can't keep up at some point, you have a lot of collapses and a lot of deaths." 

This extreme heat could carry into next week as a "high-pressure dome" moves from Texas into Arizona, where temperatures have hit 110 degrees for nearly two weeks straight.  

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