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Our power grid is buckling under the weight of climate change
Jul 20, 2021
Episode 478

Our power grid is buckling under the weight of climate change

Outages, like the ones this summer in the Pacific Northwest, cost lives and money. But fixing a complex system won't be easy.

The power grid isn’t like other infrastructure.

“Supply always has to equal demand at every second, every minute, every hour of the year,” said Carnegie Mellon assistant professor Destenie Nock. “And when you get that wrong, that’s when you get a blackout. And that’s a big problem.”

That’s what happened across Texas earlier this year after a bout of extreme cold. Portland, Oregon, lost power in this summer’s heatwave. In fact, major weather-related outages are up 67% since 2000, costing lives and tens of billions of dollars.

Nock studies and helps plan power systems, and on today’s show she’ll talk us through the challenges of maintaining and updating the grid in the face of climate change, and the outlook on potential solutions. Decarbonizing electricity sources comes with its own hurdles, like managing power to and from houses with solar panels, for example.

Later in the show, we’ll learn about another industry impacted by “right to repair” laws, and dyslexia-friendly fonts other than the controversial Comic Sans. Plus, a listener in the U.K. brings us a rare story about a Facebook for good.

When you’re done listening, tell your Echo device to “make me smart” for our daily explainers. This week, we’re explaining hurricane hunters, COPPA and G.I. Joe. You can hear them all here. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter! You can find the latest issue here.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer