When extreme summer heat waves hit, everyone needs the power grid to keep on powering. So how do we get to a day when electricity service is always there when we need it, without the risk of blackouts? How do we end the injustice of households with the least means being hit hardest by spiking power prices, outages and pollution from energy generation? It starts with some real talk on electricity reliability, and undoing a few myths. 

Say “Yes” to Power without Pollution

There are harmful pollutants coming from fossil fuels power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on new air pollution protections, but the operators of big regional electricity grids – PJM, MISO, SPP, and ERCOT – have jumped in to argue for fossil fuel power. Coal and gas power plants are not reliable in extreme weather events like high heat and freezing temperatures. Grid operators should be saying ‘yes, we can’ to solar, wind, battery storage and demand response: the key energy ingredients for a more reliable – and affordable – grid.

It's still your grandpa's grid out there

Our electricity grids have been built piecemeal over a hundred years, with transmission lines built for an era of connecting big coal, gas and nuclear power plants to cities and towns.

These power plants are largely the same as they were a generation ago, except that today these generators are more expensive for bill payers than wind, solar and battery storage. These types of power plants are also proving unreliable in the face of ever more extreme weather.

Fossil fuel plants falter when the going gets tough

More weather extremes are revealing to the rest of us what owners of coal and gas power plants have known all along – that often these power sources can’t perform well when people need power the most.


Problems in the heat

In the summer, high air and water temperatures reduce the efficiency and availability of power plants. There are numerous examples of drought or high “cooling” water temperatures forcing plants to shut down. In California, Texas and elsewhere, summer failures at gas power plants have contributed to rolling blackouts.

Avoiding accountability

Instead of being accountable for failures, power plant owners have instead been petitioning grid operators to reduce or eliminate the fines they are supposed to pay if they can’t operate in emergencies – a clear sign of plant owners’ own judgment of their “reliability.”

Problems with fuel

Fuels like gas must be ordered in advance, and if plant operators don’t anticipate extreme weather ahead of time, they don’t have the fuel to deliver the energy they’ve promised.

Problems in the cold

During Winter Storm Elliott, nearly 4 in 10 gas power plants in PJM Interconnection’s Mid-Atlantic/Ohio Valley region failed as demand for electricity soared. The culprits were widespread – from lack of fuel supplies to equipment failures and more. Gas and coal plant failures were similarly the problem in the deadly Winter Storm Uri in Texas.

Clean energy is proving powerful

Solar and wind are steadily showing their dependability for producing electricity, in good times and bad – and battery storage is proving its worth as a key ingredient for reliability in a clean energy grid.


Saving the day

Renewables, solar in particular, were critical for helping both California and Texas avoid outages in record-setting heat waves last summer. Major additions of solar in Texas proved key to preventing blackouts when six gas power plants failed in a May 2022 heatwave.


During Winter Storm Elliott, wind power performed so well in the Midwest grid – and so many gas plants failed – that wind provided nearly as much power to the grid as a gas fleet three times its size.


Already this summer, renewables and asking consumers to limit energy use (also known as “demand response”) are being credited with keeping the AC on during a brutal late June heatwave in Texas. With temperatures soaring above 100 degrees, solar and wind performed well, powering millions of homes in the state. And when heat took a coal plant offline, battery storage took up most of the slack within minutes.

Battery storage

In California, where battery storage is most advanced, it’s proving it can make the difference in keeping power flowing in summer weather extremes.

Upgrading the grid is the silver bullet

There are already more than enough solar, wind and battery storage projects planned in the United States today to provide just about all the electricity we need. Some 10,000 projects – 2,000 gigawatts of power – are waiting (and waiting) in “interconnection queues” for the go-ahead to proceed with construction, create jobs and provide clean power. 

But because our grid operators haven’t planned and built the kind of new lines needed to connect clean energy and move it long distances for reliability, most of these low-cost clean energy projects are stuck. They can’t proceed. Those that can typically wait an average of five years in queues. The vast majority are canceled – meaning they never get to help reduce or replace expensive and polluting fossil fuels, put people to work or lower people’s bills.

In the meantime, the costs of inaction on transmission are high. Households living on the lowest incomes and BIPOC communities continue to bear a disproportionate share of fossil fuel power plant pollution, energy bill burden, and impacts of power shut-offs. We all grit our teeth in frustration over the near year-round risk of outages amid an outdated web of deficient power grids dependent on undependable fossil fuels.

Here's what you can do now

Sign up to add your name to the growing ranks of electricity consumers who’ve had enough and are ready to start holding power companies, grid operators and public officials accountable for much bolder and faster action to transform our transmission grids now for a clean energy era. We’re ready for real reliability, lower-cost power and energy service that is equitable – clean, accessible and affordable for everyone.



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More Connection Is Key

Every summer, we are at risk of blackouts due to high heat, droughts, wildfires and storms. It’s getting gridiculous! More reliable power to our homes means investing in more long-range transmission to get power where it needs to go. It’s gridiculous that one location can be at risk of blackouts while another has power available to meet the need. Investing in transmission to connect clean energy across and between regions means a more reliable, cleaner and lower-cost grid.

Low-Cost Renewables Are Ready

What better way to beat the summer heat than to harness the power of the summer sun. Thousands of solar, wind and battery storage projects are ready to power our lives – without pollution and at lower cost than fossil fuels. But most are stuck waiting for the grid to catch up and provide the transmission needed to connect them in. When grid operators warn that power supplies could run short of demand, remind them that there’s a mountain of job-creating clean power projects they need to get out of “grid-lock” now.

Reliability with Clean Energy

It’s summertime, but the livin’ ain’t easy. Year after year, extreme weather puts us at risk of power outages with our fossil-fuel heavy power grids. A clean and reliable grid is the way forward. We’re seeing it over and over: renewables performing strongly in both high heat and extreme cold – and fossil fuels struggling, or even failing. Let’s learn the lessons of the last few years – and move faster to connect more solar, wind and battery storage now.

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