The power outages Texans experienced because of the unprecedented winter storm were sadly avoidable. It was an unprecedented weather event, but one that our electrical grid should have been prepared to withstand.

Unfortunately, as we have seen in Texas and other states like California, electrical grids are often vulnerable to extreme weather or dramatically increased usage. We need to ensure our electrical grid is more reliable and able to withstand demand that will increase in coming years.

Newly confirmed Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm explained the issue succinctly in a tweet: “America’s electricity grid is simply not able to handle extreme weather events. Whether it’s wildfires in California or snowstorms in Texas, we need to upgrade our grid infrastructure ASAP.”

While this is true, and we can expect a lengthy debate about how the power grid failed in Texas and how this can be avoided in the future, this situation brings up another important issue that many politicians and public policy experts have avoided. Is our electrical grid prepared for expected increases in electric vehicle charging? The answer appears to be no.

Most electric-car owners charge at home so power outages present a unique and potentially dangerous situation for EV owners.

During the snowstorm, people were relying on their vehicles for heat and for charging essential devices. Any home that solely relies on EVs was therefore at increased risk. And for those who need to evacuate an area, not being able to charge their car because of a power outage could have deadly consequences.

This is especially troubling because it is during emergency situations that power outages become more common. Nine in 10 major power outages in the U.S. were caused by hurricanes. Wildfires in California resulted in power outages and rolling blackouts. And now we can add a winter snowstorm leading to power outages here in Texas,.

And it’s also easy to imagine the risks associated with a weather-related extended power outage if our emergency vehicles were electric powered as well.

But it’s not even just extreme weather that can cause outages. If electricity powered every car, it would increase demand that would strain the electrical grid.

A Department of Energy study found national consumption of electricity could increase by as much as 38 percent by 2050, in large part because of electric vehicles. If residents cranking up their electric heaters can push power demand “beyond the worst-case scenarios that grid operators had planned for,” our electrical grid is obviously not prepared for the 276 million vehicles currently registered in the U.S. to be electric.

For reference, despite companies like General Motors recently announcing that by 2035 they will only offer electric vehicles, electric cars currently account for less than two percent of the vehicle market in America.

While many will debate exactly what and who is to blame for the Texas blackouts, regardless of the cause, the power grid is obviously unprepared for extreme weather events and increased demand in many circumstances, and is therefore not ready for mass adoption of EVs.

The bottom line is that we need multiple energy sources to help ensure that we don’t see disasters like the one this week become even worse. EVs will be a bigger part of our future, but conversion of the entire transportation system to electricity should not be a goal. Even with expensive upgrades, there will always be some grid failures. And, when that happens, we will all need some gasoline and diesel engines to help us get out of harm’s way.

State Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, represents House District 31.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here