The widespread power outages in Texas were devastating, causing over 80 deaths during severe winter storms in February 2021. Unfortunately, the Texas power crisis played out as Meredith Angwin had predicted a power crisis would occur.
In her new book, Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid, Meredith describes how closed meetings, arcane auction rules, and five-minute planning horizons are toppling the reliability of our electric grid. Says Meredith, “The Texas situation happened exactly as I predicted in my book. People said, ‘I read your book, and then I watched Texas!’ I hate how it played out.”
What’s Behind the Fragility of Our Electric Grids?
According to Meredith, only a few of the issues in Texas were unique to that state. Most of the problems were typical of RTOs. What is an RTO, you might ask? Great question, and to get to the answer, you need to understand a bit of Meredith’s background. As a working chemist, Meredith headed projects that lowered pollution and increased reliability on the electric grid. She was one of the first women to be a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, where she led projects in renewable and nuclear energy.
Over the past ten years, Meredith has studied and taken part in grid oversight and governance. And what she learned as a result is the inspiration for Shorting the Grid. “I didn’t understand basic things about the utility industry, even though I’ve worked in various phases of improving power plant operation for most of my life,” laughs Meredith. She discovered what she calls a “hidden world”: the Regional Transmission Organization, or RTO. “The RTO sets the rules for how power plants get paid, which means they set the rules for which power plants survive on the grid,” Meredith explains. “It took me years to get a handle on what happens in that world, and when I did, I realized that the decisions made in this world were leading the grid to fragility. I felt I had to write about this, to sound the alarm.”
Shorting the Electric Grid
Meredith was also inspired by the book The Big Short, which describes how complex financial instruments brought the housing market to its knees in 2008, even though these instruments had nothing to do with a person being creditworthy. “Complex rules in electricity markets in RTOs have nothing to do with reliability and are likely to lead to expensive electricity plus rolling blackouts,” says Meredith. “While I was writing the book, I found the parallels between the 2008 housing market and today’s electric markets quite frightening.”
As a result of the Texas blackouts, Meredith has become a popular guest for interviews. “I’ve been called ‘catnip’ for podcasts and ‘prescient’ about Texas. Watching Texas was very upsetting,” she recalls. “I didn’t like to see it actually happening,”
Meredith’s Approach to Book Marketing
“I’m now trying to broaden my marketing to mainstream media. Wish me luck!” Fortunately for Meredith, she enjoys media interviews. “I love to talk about my book and also, I just love to talk to people in general.” Meredith says she gets feedback from people who see her interview. “They find my email address on my website, write me a note and tell me how they liked the book. I just love that part!”
Despite the timely publication of Shorting the Grid, Meredith finds marketing to be hard: “Marketing feels ‘pushy’ and it is never-ending. You finish a book, but you don’t finish marketing.” At the suggestion of 1106 Design, she hired Lynn McGinnis, who helped her with aspects of her book launch, such as social media and the all-important author page on Amazon. Meredith then sent out copies of her book to “influencers,” people in the energy field who have blogs or platforms, and she has heard people quoting her book when they are interviewed on podcasts. “Luckily, I know a lot of people in the energy sector,” Meredith smiles. “I also have an existing platform, and while not large, it’s respected.”
Bringing the Book to Market
With publisher services—including cover design, interior design, editing, indexing, typesetting, proofreading and marketing coaching—provided by 1106 Design, Meredith published hard cover, paperback and ebook versions of Shorting the Grid. “I decided to do a hard cover edition because libraries and schools apparently want that format,” she explains. “However, most people are buying the ebook and the paperback.” The book is available on Amazon, Walmart, and from local bookstores if they order from IngramSpark. Thanks to IngramSpark and Amazon, her book is available worldwide. “I’ve had quite a few sales in Brazil, Australia and Canada,” says Meredith. “The Kobo ebook (available from the Walmart website via IngramSpark’s ebook distribution) is surprisingly popular.”
Advice for Authors New to Self-Publishing
Although Meredith has self-published books prior to Shorting the Grid, she finds most details of self-publishing to be challenging. “I would say that the last twenty percent of preparing the book for publication takes about eighty percent of the time,” Meredith advises. “Even though 1106 Design does a great job, there’s still a lot for the author to do. For example, I had tons of footnotes, and I had to put them in proper form. And marketing!” she laughs.
Meredith has this advice for authors who are new to self-publishing: don’t think you can do everything yourself. “For example, no one can proofread their own work,” says Meredith. “And, if you do the book layout yourself, the end result might have the same words, but it will look amateurish and as a result won’t have the same influence as a professionally designed book.”
What’s next for Meredith? She would like every person in Congress and every person in state legislatures to read her book. Meredith also hopes that Shorting the Grid will support people in reforming the electricity market—“My goal is that people should stop RTOs from driving the grid into fragility.” Thank you, Meredith, for choosing 1106 Design to help you publish Shorting the Grid and bring your important message to the public’s attention.
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Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid
Author: Meredith Angwin
Genre: Non-fiction, current events