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Texas freeze raises questions about risks of electrifying buildings

Gas stoves helped residents cook, boil water when power went out.

March 03, 2021 |

Courtesy Pixabay

Widespread power outages in Texas during a severe cold blast have caused some to question whether banning fossil fuels from new buildings makes sense.

Most homes with gas space heating went cold because most gas-powered heating systems require electricity to operate. But, after the lights went out, gas stoves allowed residents to boil water and cook food while electric appliances were useless.

The reductions in carbon emissions resulting from all-electric buildings supplied by clean power sources are still compelling, and there are ways to make the grid and individual buildings more resilient to power outages. For instance, attaching a small battery backup to a gas heating system enables it to run when the grid fails.

Solar panels with battery storage could also keep both electric stoves and electric heating systems running during grid outages. Batteries in electric vehicles could someday be tapped as a source of backup energy.

There are strategies that can make the grid more resilient, as well. Texas could winterize its electrical system, for starters. Also, microgrids at the building-level or community-level can generate and store their own electricity, relieving pressure on the grid, and may be able to continue providing power during regional outages.

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