Florida’s emergency management director is warning that new supply chain problems could delay 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 usually take three to six months to import, but the delivery date is two to six years away due to supply chain issues.
“Transformers are a critical component for electrical restoration and electricity delivery. Some manufacturers we’re not even taking new orders for transformers because they already have such a backlog,” said Amy Zubaly, executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association.
FMEA represents 33 public authorities in Florida. Utilities across the state have publicly shared concerns about the transformer shortage.
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“As we prepare for hurricane season, we are building a supply and stockpile of our electrical components that we need for post-hurricane recovery. This is separate from our normal operational supplies of materials. This supply from both hands may not be enough that it usually is,” Zubali said.
The FMEA is hopeful that power companies can handle a mild hurricane season, but warns that restoring power could be a challenge if the region is swamped by multiple storms.
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“We were predicted to have an above average number of storms. We are now entering the peak of hurricane season. So most storms don’t hit until August, September, October, and this is the beginning of August, and so the next three months are going to be really telling. If we get hit repeatedly by large-scale storms, we may find ourselves in a situation where you have to, you know, find alternative ways to supply.”
Energy companies warn that the threat extends far beyond hurricane season. This can affect the emergency management response to severe weather in general, including wildfires and floods.
“This is a problem for those who are facing bushfires right now. Flooding if there is concern that components have been damaged and need to be replaced. You know, they’re trying to try across the sector and across the sector to solve these problems,” Zubaly said.
Senator Marco Rubio has introduced a bill to encourage transformer manufacturing in the US. The bill includes an $8 billion loan guarantee for local companies to restore or increase supplies of materials to the electric grid to ease supply chain concerns. However, the FMEA warns that this will take time to resolve the issue.
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In Lynn Haven, Florida, complete hurricane devastation is in recent times. After Hurricane Michael hit the region in 2018, power was restored within weeks. Now, however, energy companies are grappling with unprecedented supply chain issues.
“It was literally the worst day of their lives. October 10, 2018 is a day we will never forget. “Just as 911 marked American history in the 21st century, October 10 marked history right here in Northwest Florida,” said Mayor Jesse Nelson. “As you can see behind us, our city is still rebuilding city hall, our police station, our emergency operations center. So for four years the police station operated with trailers. Our town hall works with trailers. we’re still dealing with storms, we don’t have the facilities we need to protect our employees.”
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Mayor Nelson told Fox News that the transformer shortage is alarming. Many power companies refurbish or refurbish used transformers as a way to increase inventory levels.