Experts warn of increasing risk of extreme weather to Canada’s electricity grid

Extreme weather a growing risk to Canada’s electricity grid: experts

“Are North American Electricity Grids at Risk of Overloading in Extreme Weather?

The recent burst of cold temperatures brought Alberta’s electricity grid to the brink, raising questions about the reliability of power systems in the face of severe weather. But it’s not just Alberta – experts warn that electricity grids all across North America are facing increased vulnerability to overloading during extreme weather conditions.

Rising Demand and Vulnerability
Francis Bradley, CEO of Electricity Canada, highlighted the widespread vulnerability of electricity grids in the face of escalating climate change-related extreme weather events. He pointed out that there has been a noticeable spike in electricity demand during extreme weather conditions in various regions across Canada and the United States in the past two years.

South of the border, Texas experienced blackouts during winter storms, while California declared repeated emergency grid alerts due to heatwaves. On the Canadian front, Alberta issued an emergency alert urging residents to conserve power to avoid potential blackouts as temperatures dropped to -40C. This incident was just one in a series of grid alerts marking an uptick in frequency in the region.

Growing Political Significance
The reliability of electricity grids has become a political issue, particularly in Alberta, where the transition to green energy has sparked controversy. However, Bradley emphasized that the challenges faced by Alberta are not unique, as all jurisdictions are grappling with increased electricity demand driven by developments in clean energy technology and electric vehicle usage.

A North American Electric Reliability Corporation report released in November further underscored the heightened risk of energy supply shortages across North America during extreme weather conditions. While U.S. jurisdictions are generally more vulnerable to winter grid interruptions, parts of Canada, including Saskatchewan, Quebec, and the Maritimes, were also identified as being at risk.

The Unpredictability of Extreme Weather
The difficulty of forecasting electricity demand amidst intensifying extreme weather was highlighted by Mark Olson, manager of reliability assessments at NERC. He emphasized that it is increasingly challenging for electricity system operators to plan and predict demand levels during abnormal climate events.

Rob Thornton, president and CEO of the International District Energy Association, sought to reassure the public about the reliability of North America’s electricity grid. However, he acknowledged that events like the recent grid alerts in Alberta serve as a reminder of the importance of developing policies to ensure a resilient and reliable electricity system for the future.

The increasing strain on electricity grids all across North America due to extreme weather serves as a wake-up call for the region. It underscores the need for comprehensive and forward-thinking policies that can address the rising demand for electricity while ensuring the resilience and reliability of power systems in the face of climate change. As Mother Nature continues to exhibit her power, the time is ripe for a proactive approach to safeguarding our electricity infrastructure for generations to come.”



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