Renewable Energy Mandates Increase Chances Of Major Blackouts

Texas and California lead the nation in power outages and in wind and solar generation. Since 2019, there have been 263 power outages across Texas–more than any other state–each lasting an average of 160 minutes and impacting an estimated average of 172,000 Texans. From 2019 to 2023, California had 221 power outages, ranking second, and Washington ranked third with 118 outages, based on data from the Department of Energy. Texas has the most wind capacity in the nation and is the nation’s top wind producer and California has the most solar capacity in the nation and is the nation’s top producer of solar power.


Over the past 5 years, more than a third of Texas’ outages occurred in 2021, when a freeze led to widespread outages and the deaths of at least 210 people around the middle of February. There were 47 outages in February 2021 out of 91 across Texas that year. Mass outages such as the one that occurred during the 2021 freeze are rare. Typically, the outages Texans experience are localized and caused by damage to power lines. Power outages — and other events such as wildfires — are becoming greater risks for utilities as the nation’s power grid infrastructure, much of which was installed more than 50 years ago, cannot handle surging electricity demand, higher rates of intermittency, and extreme weather events. Much of the U.S. electric grid was built in the 1960s and 1970s. While the system has been improved with automation and some emerging technologies, it is struggling to meet the electricity needs of Biden’s energy transition, such as renewable energy resources and growing building and transportation electrification.

In 2022, Texas led the nation in utility-scale wind-powered electricity generation, producing more than one-fourth of the U.S. total, leading the nation for the 17th year in a row. Wind power surpassed the state’s nuclear generation for the first time in 2014 and exceeded coal-fired generation for the first time in 2020.  In 2011, Texas was the first, and until 2020 the only, state to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity. By February 2023, Texas had nearly 40,000 megawatts of wind capacity, which was more than one-fourth of the state’s utility-scale generating capacity and almost three fourths of its total renewable generating capacity, including from small-scale (less than 1 megawatt) solar installations. In 2022, wind supplied one-fifth of Texas’ in-state utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) generation.

Texas ranks sixth in the nation in solar power potential. In 2022, the state was the country’s second-largest producer, after California, of solar power. Solar PV capacity at the state’s large- and small-scale facilities increased to more than 13,500 megawatts in early 2023. Solar energy accounted for about 5 percent of the state’s total electricity generation in 2022. Small-scale solar facilities provided about one-eighth of that total. Natural gas-fired power plants supplied about half the electricity generated in Texas in 2022, coal-fired power plants supplied 16 percent, and the state’s two operating nuclear power plants supplied 8 percent.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas, the state’s utility regulator, is requiring Texas utilities to file resiliency plans this year for the first time. These plans would lay out each utilities’ strategies to reduce outages and otherwise harden their infrastructure against weather-related events.


Between 2019 and 2023, California had its largest power outages in 2022 (69 outages) and in 2020 (56 outages). In August 2020, hundreds of thousands of Californians briefly lost power in rolling blackouts amid a heat wave, marking the first-time outages were ordered in the state due to insufficient energy supplies in nearly 20 years. The heat wave extended into September and was the state’s hottest and longest for September. For more than a week, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) — which oversees the electrical grid serving 80 percent of the state — had been calling on residents to conserve their energy use in the later afternoon and evening amid extreme temperatures that sent electric demand on the grid to record levels. Heat waves drive up demand due to increased air-conditioning use. Typically, summer peak load in CAISO was about 30 gigawatts, but on a very hot day, it was over 50 gigawatts–a 60 percent plus increase, and virtually all air-conditioning.

California is second in the nation, after Texas, in total electricity generation from renewable resources and solar energy is the largest source of California’s renewable electricity generation.  In 2022, solar energy supplied 19 percent of the state’s utility-scale electricity net generation, increasing to 27 percent of the state’s total net electricity generation when small-scale solar generation is included. In 2022, California produced 31 percent of the nation’s total utility-scale and small-scale solar PV electricity generation and 69 percent of the nation’s utility-scale solar thermal electricity generation. At the beginning of 2023, California had more than 17,500 megawatts of utility-scale solar power capacity– more than any other state—and when small-scale facilities are included, the state had almost 32,000 megawatts of total solar capacity. The state is the nation’s top producer of electricity from solar energy, which generates less power in the evening and virtually none at night as the sun goes down, but that is when Californians arrive home from work and turn their air conditioners up and other appliances on.

In 2022, wind accounted for 7 percent of California’s total in-state electricity generation, and the state ranked eighth in the nation in wind-powered generation.  At the beginning of 2023, California had more than 6,200 megawatts of wind capacity.  In 2022, natural gas-fired power plants provided 42 percent of the state’s total net generation and nuclear power’s share was about 8 percent, about the same as hydropower’s contribution. According to the Energy Information Administration, California is the nation’s largest importer of electricity from other states, relying upon them for around 30 percent of its electricity.


Nationally, the number of outages from 2019 to 2023 was 93 percent higher than in the previous five years. Tennessee and Utah were the only states with a decrease in outages in the last 5 years (2019 to 2023) compared to the prior 5 years (2014 to 2018), among states with sufficient data. Tennessee generates most of its power from nuclear, natural gas and coal, which together provided over 85 percent of its generation in 2022, followed by 12 percent from hydropower. Solar energy, biomass, petroleum, and wind energy provided almost all the rest of Tennessee’s net generation—about 3 percent. About 80 percent of Utah’s electricity comes from coal and natural gas plants. In 2022, coal fueled 53 percent of Utah’s total electricity net generation, and natural gas accounted for 26 percent. Almost all the rest of Utah’s in-state electricity generation came from renewable energy sources (16 percent), primarily solar power. Utah generates about one-fifth more electricity than it consumes, and the state is a net supplier of power to other states.


A study has found that power outages have increased by 93 percent across the United States over the last 5 years—a time when solar and wind power have increased by 60 percent. Texas, who leads the nation in wind generation, and California, who leads the nation in solar generation, have had the largest number of power outages in the nation over those 5 years. The U.S. electric power grid is aging but it is being asked to handle increasing demand from President Biden’s forced “green” energy transition along with an increase in generation from intermittent and weather-driven renewables (wind and solar), which are to displace affordable and reliable natural gas and coal power that currently supply almost 60 percent of U.S. generation. That is a prescription for more power outages to come.

*This article was adapted from content originally published by the Institute for Energy Research.

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