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How Do We Fix It?

Our Electricity Grid is Surprisingly Fragile: Meredith Angwin

Ep. 374

Every day Americans take the reliable supply of electricity for granted. Except during severe storms, we rarely, if ever, think that the lights might not turn on in the morning.

But in some parts of the country, consumers face the threat of rolling blackouts, and sudden surges in the price of electricity. Nearly two years ago, nearly 300 people died when the Texas power grid partially failed during a winter cold snap. California came close to a grid collapse last summer. And New England might be in big trouble this coming winter. 

Energy analyst, author, and chemist, Meredith Angwin, is our guest in this episode of "How Do We Fix It?" Her latest book is “Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of our Electric Grid.” 


In recent years, our podcast co-host Jim Meigs has written extensively on energy, and says it's a bad idea to shut down nuclear power plants that supply large amounts of reliable energy and aren't dependent on the weather.  


But the threatened electricity grid crisis is not just about how we make power—it’s how we deliver power to users. For big chunks of the country that system has changed radically in recent decades. Reforms that were meant to make our energy system more competitive backfired. 

The fragile gird matters more than at any time in memory for three reasons: 

- The need to decarbonize energy production to limit the future impacts of climate change. 

- Modern technology requires a big increase in electricity output.

- The geopolitical clash over energy has grown more intense and violent since Putin's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

We also discuss why it's not enough to add more solar panels, wind turbines and hydro-electric power to the system. We need new and improved transmission lines to move all that power.

Recommendation: Richard is watching "Extraordinary Attorney Woo", a South Korean TV series about a brilliant rookie attorney who has autism spectrum disorder. 

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