Daily Energy Insider

End supply chain shortages to protect Southeast’s electric infrastructure, GOP tells Biden

Published on September 06, 2022 by Kim Riley

With the start of storm season, President Joe Biden must immediately address the supply chain shortages threatening the Southeast’s electric infrastructure, according to a bicameral group of a dozen Republican congressional members who represent the region.

“Beyond the current invocation of the Defense Production Act for certain energy infrastructure components, more must be done to ensure electric reliability heading into storm season,” the members wrote in a Sept. 1 letter sent to Biden.   

The letter, led by U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN), was also signed by U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and U.S. Reps. David Kustoff (R-TN), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), John Rose (R-TN), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Tim Burchett (R-TN), H. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN).

The lawmakers expressed concerns about the supply of transformers and the raw materials used to make them, noting that local power companies in the Southeast have called the availability of transformers “particularly dire,” according to their letter.

“Transformers are a crucial component of electricity delivery at substations and utility poles,” wrote the lawmakers. “This equipment is important not only for keeping up with economic growth, but for restoring power after storms and other extreme weather events.”

Costs are skyrocketing, they wrote, and lead times for some manufacturers are up to two years, while others are not taking orders at all.

At issue is the availability of raw materials like steel, wrote the lawmakers, who cited information from the president’s capstone report issued in February by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). 

According to the DOE report on America’s supply chains, there is only one domestic manufacturer of the steel used to produce transformers and it is currently unable to meet demand. 

Therefore, according to the report, the DOE makes several recommendations, such as lowering the manufacturing costs of large power transformers, wrote the lawmakers. 

“At a minimum, we request that you direct DOE to temporarily suspend its most recent conservation standards for transformers, which require manufacturers to use more steel than previously required,” according to their letter. 

In turn, manufacturers could increase transformer availability by allowing less steel to be used for each device, wrote the GOP members, citing information from a May 26 letter sent to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm by the American Public Power Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The legislators also asked that President Biden request that the Federal Emergency Management Agency engage with suppliers and utilities to determine whether stockpiles of transformers — particularly those that may have been purchased with federal funds — exist that could be used during emergency situations.