Even readers who are only experiencing the Texas electricity disruptions from afar may wish to consider a new report from an expert panel at the National Academy of Sciences, The Future of Electric Power in the United States (2021, prepublication copy downloadable for free). Here's a summary of a few of the main economic and technological changes facing the US electricity industry.
1) A Potentially Large Increase in Demand for Electricity
In the last couple of decades, per capita demand for electricity has been fairly flat in the US, while per capita demand for energy has actually declined. This is in part because of greater energy efficiency, and also in part because the US economy has been shifting to service-oriented production that is uses less energy for each dollar of output produced.
Of course, continual increases in efficiency of electricity use--say, by large household appliances and new light bulbs--could offset this rise in demand for electricity. On the other side, changes in more people using electricity in their homes or all purposes, rather than using natural gas or oil, could also shift electricity demand higher.
through the replacement of coal with natural gas—sometimes called `shallow decarbonization'—but the path to deep decarbonization is not yet widely agreed upon."
There doesn't seem to be much of a push for more nuclear or hydro (although there probably should be), which means that we're talking about here is expanding the green and yellow areas to account for a much larger share of electricity generation over the next 2-3 decades. Maybe other technologies like carbon capture and storage or hydrogen can make a difference, too. My sense is that most people (and politicians) have no realistic sense of what would be needed to make solar and wind the main elements of the electrical grid. It's not just expanding wind and solar by a factor of maybe 10, with all that implies for building additional solar and wind facilities, but it's also building the new transmission lines needed to get the power where we want it to be and building the electricity grid so that it can deal with the intermittent nature of these sources of electricity.