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A surprising factor has helped Texans endure deadly summer heat waves: 'If the system fails again ... people will die'

"If that's not clear, you're not paying attention."

Texas' hotter-than-usual weather has sent residents searching for a chilling relief over the past few weeks. The heat's subsequent power grid blackouts are being buffered by an unlikely ally: renewable energy. 

During the heatwave, temperatures in southeastern Texas and northern Mexico reached well over 100 degrees, with the heat index (the "feels like" temperature) climbing close to 125 degrees in some Gulf Coast cities. Forecasters warned that the rising temperatures will not be stopping anytime soon. 

The heat has caused one of the state's four nuclear plants to stop working, as well as one coal plant. Solar energy and batteries were able to make up the difference and keep the lights (and, more importantly, the air conditioning) on for many Texans.

The use of solar energy and batteries to maintain Texas' power grid goes against the political narrative in the state that solar energy is unreliable. The state's lawmakers have blamed solar and wind energy for the instability of the grid, such as with the 2021 winter storm that killed 250 people and a series of summer blackouts in 2022. However, both of these claims are misleading, as dirty energy sources were to blame. 

Texas is currently a national leader in renewable energy production, generating nearly 17 gigawatts of solar power alone, an amount equivalent to 17 nuclear power stations. 

However, the political narrative around solar energy has slowed more renewable energy operations from starting in the Lone Star State. Instead, lawmakers have advocated for systems that isolate Texas from the rest of the national power grid and rely on dirty coal. 

The state is highly susceptible to hotter-than-average conditions because of its proximity to the jet stream. One report suggested the state is five times more likely to experience heat waves directly resulting from the overheating of our planet.

"We can blame the fact that the temperatures [in Texas] are five degrees warmer on climate change, and that the likelihood of this event has increased by some large amount," Michael Wehner, a senior climate scientist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told Inside Climate News

"Dangerous climate change is here now — if that's not clear, you're not paying attention," Wehner added. "If the electrical system fails again in Texas, people will die."

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