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Dangerous transformer shortage in the USA

USA, Washington: Power companies have issued warnings about dangerous transformer shortages in the USA.

US power companies are raising the alarm about a potential energy crisis. Transformers are crucial to the grid because they change the voltage of electricity to make it usable. However, energy trade groups warn that the nation can’t count on aging transformers to keep the power on. Also, if transformers blow during storms, it could take more than a year for power companies to get new ones due to the supply chain shortage. ERMCO estimates that, in case a storm blows enough transformers in a city with no reserves, it could take several weeks to bring the lights back on.

Mike Partin, president and CEO of the Sequatchie Valley Electric Cooperative, says there is a supply chain problem putting USA at risk because it could take 52 to 56 weeks to get new transformers instead of the typical 4-week turnaround from manufacturers.

The Department of Energy says the entire stability of the electricity grid depends on sufficient supply and stated that transformer outages are a matter of national security.

Tim Mills, the CEO of ERMCO, a transformer distributor, says there aren’t national or regional stockpiles of transformers. But he says that the inventory of many of ERMCO’s customers has dropped in half due to the shortage, while others power companies are nearly completely out of transformers.

As lead times on new transformers grow longer, utilities are also worried about the nation’s ability to make new ones because transformer cores use a specific type of steel called grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES). Most GOES manufacturers are outside of USA.

The Department of Energy wants to expand USA’s production by using a more efficient kind of steel for transformer cores called amorphous steel. Amorphous cores are part of the DOE’s proposed energy-efficiency standards for transformers which they estimate could cut energy waste and slash 340 M metric tons of carbon over the next 30 years. That’s roughly equal to the yearly emissions of 90 coal-fired plants, all while saving consumers an estimated $15 B on their bills.

Gene Rodriguez, an assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity within the Department of Energy says the switch could come with a lot of benefits. “It means less waste in the system,” he said. “You’re paying less money for an energy system that’s inefficient, that is wasting electricity along the way.

However, Partin, Mills and dozens of senators worry that switching to a new type of transformer could worsen the ongoing supply chain problems and slow down the expansion and maintenance of the grid.

In the meantime, the DOE is also offering up $20 M worth of rebates to utilities and businesses to upgrade to energy efficient transformers.

Source: 10 News