Lawmakers From Alabama Raise Utility Supply Chain Concerns With FEMA

July 25, 2022

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
July 25, 2022

A group of House Representatives from Alabama recently sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in which they voiced concerns over “the dangerous supply chain shortages affecting Alabama’ s electricity sector.”

In a news release, U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-AL) noted that the letter was sent to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell regarding supply chain shortages affecting Alabama’s electric cooperatives and public power utilities.

Labor shortages and competition from other industries for steel have made equipment procurement difficult, and as a result, critical electric grid equipment delivery times have increased 20-fold in the past two years, the July 14 letter said.

The lawmakers noted that in 2018, transformers took only three months to be delivered. But delivery delays for transformers are now averaging 18 to 25 months in Alabama, and some manufacturers are not even taking orders, the letter noted.

This is troubling because this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is forecasted to produce hurricanes and tropical storms of above-average strength, and several communities along the Alabama coast have not recovered from Hurricane Sally, the lawmakers told FEMA.

As the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season gets underway, “we urge FEMA to mitigate this issue before a severe hurricane, tropical storm, or other natural disaster impacts communities in Alabama,” the lawmakers said.

The House members said that FEMA must employ mitigation efforts with the local Alabama electric community to ensure critical electric equipment such as transformers, bare wire, meters, and other electric grid equipment will be available “ahead of the first disaster.”

The letter was cosigned by all seven members of Alabama’s House delegation.

A group of federal lawmakers from Florida sent a similar letter to FEMA in June.

APPA Moves To Address Supply Chain Challenges

The American Public Power Association (APPA) is taking a number of actions to address ongoing supply chain challenges.

APPA recently rolled out an additional feature to its eReliability Tracker that is available to all public power utilities and allows for voluntary equipment sharing by matching systems with the same distribution voltages.

In a speech in June at APPA’s National Conference in Nashville, Tenn., Ditto urged member utilities to share their supply chain challenges with APPA so that the trade group can relay details on these challenges to federal partners and discuss how critical burdens on the sector can be alleviated.

In May, APPA convened a supply chain summit that included participation from public power utility officials who discussed their supply chain challenges and mitigation strategies.

APPA also recently finalized a new supply chain issue brief. APPA members can download the issue brief here.

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