Energy & Environment

Moniz: Texas blackouts show need to protect infrastructure against climate change


Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday told lawmakers that recent extreme weather events in Texas underscored the need to better incorporate climate change risks into energy infrastructure.

“Climate change means that the weather patterns of the past are not adequate to inform those of the future,” Moniz said at a hearing hosted by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“As we increase electrification of key sectors, we must thoughtfully approach these requirements for, and risks to, a modernized electric grid,” he added. “In addition, increased electrification of other parts of the economy necessitates a substantial buildout of the grid system, from transmission lines to substations and transformers, to distribution systems and [electric vehicle] charging stations, all the way to heat pumps for homes.”

Moniz, who served during the Obama administration, noted that both the failure of the Texas grid and rolling blackouts in parts of California were indicative of the need to protect energy infrastructure from extreme climate events.

“Research,  development,  and  demonstration  of  grid  resilience  technologies  will  be  critically important to preserving reliability, an essential role of the federal government,” he added.

Moniz’s comments came during a hearing on the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, a wide-ranging infrastructure bill introduced last week by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Later in the hearing, Moniz added that “one of the major lessons” from the Texas blackouts had been that “as we do grid modernization, we have to look at the intersections with other infrastructures … in particular the failure to integrate response on the gas side and the electricity side was a huge problem.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have clashed on the extent to which hearings should be held on the failure of Texas’s self-contained grid. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has said he intends to investigate “to what extent Texas should be part of the national grid.”

Unlike other states, Texas operates a standalone grid, allowing it to sidestep most federal regulations.

Some Republicans, however, have said Congress does not need to get involved in a state issue.

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