Press Release: Tuberville, Colleagues Urge Biden to Address Supply Chain Shortages Threatening Electric Infrastructure as Storm Season Approaches

WASHINGTON —U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) joined 11 of his congressional colleagues calling on President Biden to immediately address the supply chain shortages threatening the Southeast region’s electric infrastructure as storm season approaches. Their letter echoes concerns expressed from local power companies in the region about the supply of transformers and the raw materials used to make them. Members of Alabama’s congressional delegation expressed similar concerns in a letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell earlier this year.

“Transformers are a crucial component of electricity delivery at substations and utility poles. This equipment is important not only for keeping up with economic growth, but for restoring power after storms and other extreme weather events. In the past months, costs are skyrocketing, and lead times for some manufacturers are up to two years – while others are not taking orders at all,” the members wrote. 

The members also urged President Biden to “direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to temporarily suspend its most recent conservation standards for transformers, which require manufacturers to use more steel than previously required,” and to “engage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to engage with suppliers and utilities to determine whether stockpiles of transformers, particularly those that may have been purchased with federal funds, may exist that can be called upon in emergency situations.”

Joining Senator Tuberville in the letter are U.S. Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and U.S. Representatives David Kustoff (R-TN-08), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01), John Rose (R-TN-06), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN-04), Tim Burchett (R-TN-02), Morgan Griffith (R-VA-09), and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN-03).

A copy of the letter can be found below.

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to encourage you to take further action to address the urgent supply chain shortages threatening our region’s electric infrastructure. 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.

We have heard from Local Power Companies serving our region that the availability of transformers is particularly dire. Transformers are a crucial component of electricity delivery at substations and utility poles. This equipment is important not only for keeping up with economic growth, but for restoring power after storms and other extreme weather events. In the past months, costs are skyrocketing, 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. Your Capstone report on America’s Supply Chains notes that there is only one domestic manufacturer of the steel used to produce transformers, and this company is unable to meet demand. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) February 2022 report which informed that conclusion recommends, among other things, lowering manufacturing costs of large power transformers.

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 a letter sent to DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm by the American Public Power Association and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, this would allow manufacturers to increase transformer availability by allowing less steel to be used for each device.

Further, we request you engage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to engage with suppliers and utilities to determine whether stockpiles of transformers, particularly those that may have been purchased with federal funds, may exist that can be called upon in emergency situations.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,


Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.