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The US power grid isn’t ready for climate change

The US power grid isn’t ready for climate change

In recent weeks, you’ve either had power problems or you’ve heard about them.

In Portland, Oregon, this week, the recorded official temperature reached 115 degrees Fahrenheit, power cables for the city’s streetcars melted, sagging overhead wires forced the light rail to shut down, and more than 6,000 people lost electricity.

But it’s far from the first time extreme weather has caused serious problems with the power grid in recent months. During the winter storm that hit Texas in February, nearly 5 million people lost power. In June, California suggested that residents charge their electric vehicles during off-peak hours to save energy. And for the first time ever, after power outages hit several neighborhoods during this week’s heat wave, New York City officials sent residents an emergency mobile alert urging them to conserve energy.

It’s abundantly clear that the power grid in the United States is not ready for the effects of climate change, including the extreme weather events that come with it. After all, climate change isn’t just increasing the demand for energy to keep people cool or warm amid heat waves and winter storms. It’s also damaging the grid itself. The country is now in a race against time to shift its energy supply toward renewable sources, like wind and solar, while also needing more and more electricity to do everything from powering more air conditioning to boosting the number of EVs on the road.

“I would probably give our power grid maybe a C minus,” Kyri Baker, an engineering professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Recode. “It’s like this perfect storm of extreme temperatures, more electricity consumption, and aging infrastructure.”

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