Industry experts believe smart grids could help limit power disruptions. Outages and blackouts have risen over recent years. This trend is due in part to more extreme weather events linked to climate change.
One prominent recent example was the Texas winter storm. Cold temperatures forced large quantities of natural gas, coal, and renewable power generation offline. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) responded by ordering rolling blackouts. Reports circulated of empty commercial skyscrapers in downtown Houston continuing to receive power. Meanwhile, nearby residential areas were cut off. Advocates argue that a smart grid could have redirected the power supply to residential customers. This intervention may have kept the Texas electricity supply intact.
Isabel Beltran, an energy resilience expert with the Rockefeller Foundation, explained during the Texas storm, “One way to mitigate the impact of climate events on critical energy supplies is by harnessing distributed renewable energy networks. These can provide safe, reliable and locally-based power that is resilient in the face of disasters.” Smart grids offer “a vision for a more sustainable energy system in the future,” she noted.
James McMahon of Charles River Associates, a global consultancy firm, added, “Traditional grid planning processes are no longer acceptable as flexible use of the grid is required. A digitized grid that supports a diverse and distributed set of resources is needed to manage through uncertainty.”