El Paso gets it right – building climate resilience to extreme events
From the March 2021 Cornerstone Network email
In the world of climate resilience, we measure the bad things that don’t happen, which is not always (or even mostly) an easy feat.
But today I’m happy to share with you an important example of what happens when a community gets it right in their efforts to build climate resilience.
This month we watched a slow-moving tragedy unfold across Texas as a deep freeze covered the state causing malfunctions at power plants right as demand was surging due to the extreme cold.
Most of Texas is one power grid, which they set up intentionally to avoid federal regulations in the 1930s. But El Paso is on a different grid, one that crosses state boundaries and allows them to call on a larger power grid in emergencies like this. Which is exactly what they did with this deep freeze.
But they also learned from a deep freeze in 2011 making the necessary investments so their existing facilities could operate during prolonged freezing temperatures. And, they built a new power station with dual fuel capability so that electricity would continue flowing when the next deep freeze came.
Because El Paso invested in resilience, its residents sailed through this severe cold without a problem. Businesses carried on, schools stayed open, and no lives were lost in El Paso because of the weather.
Details of the experience in El Paso are in this article by the Texas Monthly: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/el-paso-electric-winter-storm-2021/
When, not if
At this point in the climate crisis, the question isn’t if we need to invest, but when is the right time to make the right investments? Do we make forward thinking investments in public health, community safety, and natural resource protection? Or do we wait until crisis hits and make emergency services investments that do nothing for the future?
At the Geos Institute, we help communities make smart decisions to build climate resilience. El Paso is a great example of what real resilience leadership looks like at a local level. Now, we just need them to focus those resilience efforts on power sources that don’t burn fossil fuels….
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