Should Arizonans be worried about Texas-like power problems?

Last month’s power-outages in Texas raised concern in states around the country regarding the dependability of electricity, gas and water in times of extreme and/or unexpected weather. How much should Arizonans be concerned? We asked Dave White, Deputy Director of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation.

Before getting into how Arizona might be affected, White explained what went wrong in Texas, “What we saw in Texas is a classic example of what we call cascading risk, so an extreme weather event in this case extreme cold, caused disruption to the states electrical grid. that disruption and power loss subsequently caused a number of other impacts including disruption to water systems, disruptions to transportation networks, unfortunately, loss of life, and a variety of other impacts to the residents of Texas.”

Host Ted Simons asked if something like that cascade from Texas can happen in Arizona and White responded, “Yes absolutely. Although we’re doing everything we can to prepare for and to prevent such disasters from affecting us here in Arizona, we should be aware of these risks and how these risks can affect us here. In particular, we are vulnerable not too extreme cold so much but more likely to extreme heat and to the effects of water scarcity on our interdependent electrical, water, transportation, and agriculture systems.”

White went on to explain one other key difference between Arizona and Texas.

“The state of Texas, most of the state, is on a separate electrical grid from the two other major interconnected national grids and thus they were more vulnerable to disruption and less adaptable less able to take advantage of the help from the nearby states. Arizona in comparison is part of the Western grid and we have more adaptive capacity and more redundancy in our electrical system were a similar type of situation to occur here.”

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Dave White - Deputy Director of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation

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