US Energy Secretary talks trouble with Texas power grid, energy companies reducing Houston’s footprint

FOX 26 Political Reporter Greg Groogan interviewed U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on the future of power production in America. 

Here's a full transcript of their conversation: 

Groogan: After making an historic investment in combating climate change how do you convince folks in the energy capitol that it is a good thing and that it's not breaking their plate?

Secretary Granholm: Because there are so many jobs that are being created in this clean energy sector and a lot of them are consistent with the skills that the fossil fuel workers already have. A lot of the oil and gas companies are diversifying into clean energy technology, whether it's clean hydrogen or a lot of them going into offshore wind. Some of them going into batteries for electric vehicles We are so grateful for what Houston has brought this country in terms of powering this nation for the past 100 years, and we want them to power the nation for the next 100 years, but we'd like a lot of that in clean energy.

Groogan: What can we do to harden grids so that they are not susceptible to weather. We are moving further into renewables wind, solar, but they are weather dependent.

Secretary Granholm: We have to make sure we have dispatchable, clean, base-load power. (Texas) is number one in country in wind and number two in the country in solar, fantastic, wonderful. They are cheap resources, but as you say they are not going all the time, so we have to make them as dispatchable as possible. This is why focusing on battery storage to store those renewable resources makes the kind of like dispatchable base-load power, like natural gas is. So we have to add more resources to the grid in terms of generation, not take them away and we have to expand the size of the electric grid. We have to basically double the size of the electric grid if we want to move to electric vehicles if we want to grow our economy, more people coming on data centers all of that. So the projections are we have to add thousands of Gigawatts which means expanding the infrastructure which is the grid itself. That's true in California that's true here in Texas, but we also need to make sure the grid is resilient. Texas recently got more than $30 million to make the grid more resilient, and I know there has been legislation passed which requires the grid to be weatherized in the case of these extreme weather events. Super important to do that before the next winter comes around. We've got to expand the size of the grid. It has to be resilient. We have to add new energy to the grid. It's got to be dispatchable, base-load power. All of this has to be clean and a lot of the tools to get that done were just passed by Congress, so it is very exciting.

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Groogan: There are critics who suggest that the incentives for renewables have created an uneven playing field to where no one is building any natural gas traditional generation in the state of Texas and that could be a problem in an event like the big freeze we had here.

Secretary Granholm: A lot of that was because your grid wasn't weatherized. It wasn't because you had renewable resources it was because your grid was not weatherized. The Department of Energy had done a study on this back in 2013 saying you all have to weatherize so that it is resilient against cold in addition to hot. These extreme weather events will continue to happen unless we get more clean energy on the grid. The more fossil fuels we put on the grid, the more carbon we put into the air, and we are contributing to these extreme weather events. Texas is such a great state for renewable resources. You have had more renewable projects started in Texas than any other state in the country. That's great, but we also have to make sure the grid is resilient.

Groogan: Texas is the number one producer of natural gas and oil and there is still a lot of it under the ground here. It is difficult, given human nature, to tell people we need to give a good bit of that under the earth for the good of the planet.

Secretary Granholm: We have to recognize that the more we are reliant on products that are susceptible to global events where prices go up and down the more we are going to see these vulnerabilities. If we are really going to be energy secure, we have to make our own home grown energy like clean electricity, renewable energy, and those resources are not subject to countries that don't have our interest at heart. No country has ever been held hostage to access to the sun or to access to the wind. So let's make ourselves energy secure and energy independent. We need to increase production right now of oil and gas so that we can contribute both to our own energy needs, but also to the needs of Europe, but ultimately we have to move in the direction of 100 percent clean electricity and net zero economy and net zero energy by 2050.