Transformer shortage worries nation’s utility owners

Weather

(NewsNation) — Americans are bracing for prolonged power outages and utility companies are worried they don’t have enough transformers as the U.S. enters peak Atlantic hurricane season — one in which forecasters are calling for above average hurricane activity.

In cities such as New Oleans, coastal residents are already stockpiling for storm season.

“Let’s get stuff into people’s hands before they need it. You know, before the disaster and be prepared,” one resident told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” Ton uesday.

It’s not a matter of if the next one will strike, but when.

“As we saw after Hurricane Ida … resources can be slow to arrive and unevenly distributed.”

This season, the resource that might be slowest to arrive is power, as a shortage of transformers has been plaguing utility companies across the country.

Texas power usage is expected to break records again this week as home and retail owners try to mititage yet another heatwave with their air conditioners, projections from the state’s power grid operater read Monday.

So far, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — which operates the grid for more than 26 million customers representing about 90% of the state’s power load — has said it has enough resources to meet demand.

Overall, the United States is expected to use record amounts of power in 2022. Power grid experts say it’s impossible to numerically estimate what the transformer deficiency might look like, but the supply chain is the primary culprit.

“But there are many other factors that are driving the vulnerability of the grid. One of them is how we use electricity with electrification of transportation and also cryptocurrency,” said Dr. Abdollah Shafieezadeh, an infrastructure expert at Ohio State University.

And because of supply chain delays, wait times for such equipment has quadrupled. What used to take about 12 weeks now takes more than a year.

Just Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced legislation in Florida that would provide billions to American companies to build critical grid components including transformers.

Similarly, last month, Alabama reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help mitigating the problem.

The durability of the power grid has been in spotlight in Texas since the February blackout two winters ago.

AccuWeather forecast temperatures in Houston predicts average temperatures will rise from 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33.3 degrees Celsius) on Monday to 96 F on Wednesday. That compares with a normal high of 95 F for this time of year.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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