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Is The Utility Grid Ready For Climate Change?

Bruce Guenter

This program originally aired March 3

Two very different climate events this year revealed the fragility of America's utility infrastructure.

A winter storm that hit Texas in February left more than 4.5 million electrical customers in the cold and dark. More than 50 people died due to hypothermia.

The Pacific Northwest sweltered under a "heat dome" in June, causing temperature records to melt, as did power cables feeding Portland's streetcar system. The heavy demand for electricity in Spokane, Wash., caused a utility to implement rolling blackouts.

The Carolinas have experienced their own brushes with extreme conditions that caused the energy grid to buckle under, including a 2002 ice storm and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

How resilient is our utility infrastructure to the threat posed by climate change?


Jeremiah Johnson, North Carolina State University, associate professor in the Dept. of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Nelson Peeler, Duke Energy, senior vice president for transmission and fuel strategies

Ron Hargrove, Charlotte Water, deputy utilities director

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Dante Miller is a community engagement producer for WFAE and a Report for America (RFA) Corps members. Dante first joined WFAE in 2020 through RFA to work as part of a unique partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Digital Public Library of America. Her work in that project allowed her to use radio, online stories, Wikipedia entries and events to meet the community's news and information needs.
A veteran of Charlotte radio news, Chris joined the "Charlotte Talks" staff in January 2016, but has been listening to WFAE since discovering the station as a high schooler.