Texas in the southern United States has suffered from a winter storm recently, which has affected the United States.
More than 5 million users have lost power and seriously affected their lives, exposing the long-standing aging of equipment, insufficient emergency plans, and lack of unified dispatching in the U.S. power system.
At the same time, severe weather and power outages interfere with the transportation and storage of coronavirus vaccines, and even expose some vaccines to the risk of failure, which also has also impacted the fight against the epidemic in the United States.
It can be said that this sudden energy crisis has caused the outside world to reflect on the persistent infrastructure diseases of the United States.
More than 5 million people have suffered power outages.
Affected by the polar cold current, parts of Texas were hit by snow, ice and freezing rain from the night of the 14th.
The surge in electricity consumption in low temperatures, coupled with the failure of some power stations to supply electricity normally, caused widespread power outages in Texas.
The Texas Electricity Reliability Commission announced on the 15th that the state had entered a “power emergency three-level alert”, and the regions took turns to pull the gates and limit electricity.
According to the Capitol Hill, the impact of the large-scale winter storm has affected the United States, including Texas, and more than 5 million people have suffered power outages.
On February 16th, local time, Southwest Electric Company of the United States, which manages the power grid in 14 states from North Dakota to Oklahoma, announced that it would continue to rotate power restrictions on that day, which means that in order to avoid the collapse of the power grid, more and more Americans will have to take turns to fall into the darkness after the power outage, and their lives have been seriously affected. Loud.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said many power plants using coal, natural gas or wind power could not function properly due to extreme weather and extreme temperatures.
At present, the power department is stepping up emergency repairs, and he has deployed the National Guard to assist. But at present, it seems that the work of safeguarding electricity is not progressing as expected.
According to Dan Woodfin, a senior official of the Texas Electricity Board of System Operations, this weather condition is unprecedented, far exceeding the parameters designed by the system for typical and even extreme winters, which is an important cause of the energy crisis.
According to the “Winter Storm Warning” issued by the National Weather Service, the Houston area in Texas ushered in a hundred-year-old February temperature early on the 16th, and a winter storm will be followed by the 17th.
Cold weather and road icing are expected to last for several days. At present, local law enforcement officials have found two dead on the road, the cause of death may be related to cold weather.
There are also a large number of people gathered in a shelter center in Houston, and other refuge centers that can be heated have been forced to close due to power outages, making the situation worse.
In addition, due to the impact of low temperature weather and power shortages, energy giants such as ExxonMobil, Valero Energy Company and Total Oil Company temporarily closed some refineries in Texas, and crude oil production plummeted.
Vaccination transportation and storage are disrupted.
According to the Associated Press, the winter storm also disrupted the fight against the epidemic in the United States.
Texas was scheduled to receive more than 400,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine this week, but according to local health officials, vaccine transportation will not resume until at least the 17th.
With the obstruction of vaccine transportation in many places, vaccination has been delayed.
In addition to Texas, vaccine appointments in Alabama, Kentucky and other places have been cancelled or rescheduled, and health officials in Washington state also expect vaccine distribution to be delayed.
In addition, vaccine storage has also been affected. For example, a facility in Houston that stores more than 8,000 doses of Modena’s vaccine is out of power, putting the vaccine at risk of failure.
Health officials have to arrange distribution and vaccination urgently, scrambling to find inoculations.
These affected Modena vaccines were urgently distributed to hospitals, prisons and Rice University in Houston. Rice University had to quickly organize its students to vaccinate after being told that about 1,000 doses of vaccine would be “wasted”.
The school, after being notified by Harris Medical System, is offering vaccinations urgently on campuses that were already closed, “the window is only a few hours,” said Doug Miller, a spokesman for the school.
Exposure to infrastructure problems
A winter storm actually plunged the United States into an energy crisis. Millions of people spent the winter in the dark.
Incredible, it also made many people begin to reflect on what problems have happened to the infrastructure construction of the United States.
Why can’t the grid system keep up with the needs of users?
Take Texas as an example. It is not only an important power town in the United States, but also an important wind power town in the United States. Over the past decade, it has attracted tens of billions of dollars in investment and completed many wind farms.
According to the Texas Electricity Reliability Commission, wind power accounted for a quarter of Texas’s electricity supply in 2020, and has exceeded 18% of coal-fired power generation, making wind power the second largest source after natural gas.
However, Texas’s natural gas generation accounts for 40% of electricity generation, and its position as the largest source of electricity remains solid.
“No matter what way you understand it, for a major energy and power town like Texas, this [the power outage tide] is a huge failure.” Warren Lay, director of the Energy Research Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, said.
Bloomberg analyzed that during the winter storm, the freezing of natural gas transported in pipelines, the closure of many natural gas processing plants, resulting in supply shortages, coupled with the freezing of wind turbine blades, which cut off more than half of wind power production capacity, are important causes of the energy crisis.
Texas power grid operators expect that more than 34 GW of power generation capacity will be “destroyed” by the cold wave, which is equivalent to 40% of the state’s expected power supply.
Because Texas’s power grid was designed with only the hot summer climate in the region, the unprecedented cold wave far exceeded the parameters designed for winter, which made the state the hardest hit area of power outages, and is now forced to implement rolling power outages to protect the grid from complete collapse. It is worth mentioning that Texas has only taken such extreme measures four times in the past 30 years.
At the same time, the lack of unified scheduling problems in the U.S. power system was once again put on the stage. According to the analysis, at present, there is no real national power grid in the United States.
Most of the lines and substations belong to private companies. Hundreds of home appliance network operators occupy the mountains and lack unified scheduling.
As a result, there is a lack of close coordination whether it is to achieve a balance between power supply and demand, or to respond to emergencies in a timely manner. In response to repeated large-scale power outages, some media blamed the fragmentation of the U.S. power grid.
In addition, the problem of old infrastructure cannot be avoided. Due to the lack of interest motivation, enterprises are unwilling to invest in the upgrading and transformation of power grid infrastructure, resulting in the problem of equipment aging is very prominent.
According to incomplete statistics, 70% of transmission lines and power transformers in the United States have been in operation for more than 25 years, and many equipment is at the operating limit and may collapse at any time.
This series of problems has laid hidden dangers for the U.S. power system. As long as an emergency occurs, it can trigger a chain reaction.