“As climate change accelerates, many electric grids will face extreme weather events that go far beyond the historical conditions those systems were designed for, putting them at risk of catastrophic failure.”
That’s a quote from a New York Times article by Brad Plumer published on June 15, 2021. The headline: A Glimpse of America’s Future: Climate Change Means Trouble for Power Grids.
And Canada’s power grids as well. I can vouch for that.
One hour and 16 minutes after I published a post here on Saturday, May 21 with the title What good is an EV when extreme weather events knock out power grids?, a fierce, fast-moving storm swept through this region, bringing down power lines and poles along with so many trees.
It was over as suddenly as it arrived.
The storm had already swept across southern Ontario, leaving a path of destruction and multiple deaths, before lashing Quebec. After it was all said and done, hundreds of thousands of people were left without electricity and were warned it could take several days to get it back.
No. I can’t predict lottery numbers, I told a colleague who asked after learning about the blog post.
But scientists and other experts have been warning about an increase in extreme weather events for several years now. The future is now. In my neck of the woods. Literally.
Many people in the United States and Europe would agree. They’ve experienced it, to greater and lesser degrees in their corners of the world, too.
I thought a lot about the power grid in Quebec during our seven days without electricity. There was no quick fix. In my region alone, there were at least 1,500 different outages. Downed trees had to be cleared, snapped hydro poles removed and replaced, power lines connected, and more. And across the province, there were thousands more similar outages.
The wireless network was affected as well. I had no wireless internet access and only intermittent cellphone service after the storm. But that service was restored within a couple of days.
So, why doesn’t Hydro-Quebec go ‘wireless,’ I thought. Why don’t they bury their lines underground everywhere, as they do in the downtown core of Montreal?
I have asked this question before. One Hydro-Quebec worker who was restoring power in my area several years ago rubbed his index finger and thumb together and replied, with a grin: “Money.”
OK. It would cost a lot. But the cleanup in the aftermath of the Saturday storm will cost the power company tens of millions of dollars, it said in a news report.
And they can expect many more extreme weather events, some as soon as this summer, one weather analyst was saying in a news clip.
Hydro-Quebec, for its part, has addressed the issue of burying its lines: It makes it harder to find problems with the grid, it said in one report, and to fix them.
Yes, but wouldn’t there be fewer problems if trees and wind weren’t downing the lines in the first place?
Let’s hope the Saturday storm has Hydro-Quebec re-examining its options in the face of extreme weather events and climate change. Its decision may very well determine the future of electric vehicles in Quebec.
As for me, well, my old Jeep got me out of storm central to pick up some food and such. I didn’t even mind paying $2.05 a litre for gas. Thank god it was available, I thought. If I had been driving an EV, I would have been out of luck: the gas station doesn’t have any EV chargers. Ditto for most of the other stations in the region.
So, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone reading this post, along with the earlier one, that I will not be buying an EV any time soon. The storm drove home the very message I wrote about that Saturday afternoon. Above-ground electric grids around the world are no match for extreme weather events.
The EV industry may very well stall unless power companies adapt, and I just don’t see that happening quickly.