Supply shortages could mean delays in power restoration after storms
Power companies warn the threat extends far beyond hurricane season
Florida's Emergency Management Director is warning new supply chain issues could lead to delays in power restoration after a major storm. The warning comes as the coast prepares for the peak of an above average hurricane season.
Basic essentials to restore power, including transformers, are in short supply. Transformers typically take three to six months to import, but the delivery date is two to six years from now because of supply chain issues.
"Transformers are a critical component for electric restoration and electric delivery. Some manufacturers we're not even taking new orders for transformers because they have such a backlog already," said Amy Zubaly, the Executive Director for Florida Municipal Electric Association.
FMEA represents Florida's 33 public power communities. Utilities across the state have publicly shared concerns over transformer shortages.
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"As we prepare for hurricane season, we build up a supply and a stock of our electric grade components that we need for hurricane restoration. That's separate from our normal operating supplies of materials. That supply on both hands may not be up to the extent that it normally is," Zubaly said.
FMEA is hopeful power companies could manage a light hurricane season, but warns power restoration may be a challenge if the region is slammed with multiple storms.
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"We were predicted to have an above average number of storms. We're just now getting into that peak of hurricane season. So most storms don't hit until August, September, October, and it's beginning of August and so the next three months are going to be really telling. If we're hit repeatedly by large scale storms, we may be in a situation that we're having to you know, find alternative means for the supplies."
Power companies warn the threat extends far beyond hurricane season. This could impact emergency management response to severe weather in general, including wildfires and flooding.
"It’s an issue for those that are facing wildfires right now. Flooding, if there's been concerns where components have been damaged and have to be replaced. You know, it's across the board and across the sector, across the country that they're trying to solve these issues," Zubaly said.
Senator Marco Rubio introduced a bill to encourage production of transformers on U.S. soil. The bill includes an $8 billion loan guarantee to domestic companies to rebuild or increase the supply of electric grid materials to help alleviate the supply chain concerns. However, FMEA warns this will take time to resolve the issue.
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In Lynn Haven, Florida, total devastation from a hurricane is in recent memory. After Hurricane Michael slammed the region in 2018, power was restored in a matter of weeks. However, energy companies are now struggling with unprecedented supply chain issues.
"It was literally the worst day of their lives. October 10th 2018 is a day that we will never forget. Just like 911 has marked U.S. history in the 21st century, October 10 marked history right here in Northwest Florida," Mayor Jesse Nelson said. "As you can see behind us, our city is still rebuilding city hall, our police station, our emergency operations center. So for four years, our police station has operated out of trailers. Our city hall is operating out of trailers. So as we're still dealing with storms, we don't have the facilities that we need to keep our employees protected."
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Mayor Nelson told Fox News the transformer shortage is concerning. Many power companies are repairing or refurbishing used transformers as a way to boost inventory levels.