A group of federal lawmakers from Florida on June 10 sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in which they highlight “the dangerous supply chain shortages affecting Florida’s electric cooperatives and municipalities.”
The letter, which was sent to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, said that labor shortages and competition from other industries for steel have made equipment procurement difficult.
“As a result, critical electric grid equipment delivery times have increased 20-fold in the past 2 years. Transformers, the most integral pieces in ensuring electricity to homes, took only 3 months to be delivered in 2018. Currently, delivery delays for transformers are averaging 52 to 75 months, and some manufacturers are not even taking orders,” the letter said.
“This is particularly concerning given that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season is forecasted to produce hurricanes and tropical storms of above-average strength,” the lawmakers said.
“As the onset of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, we urge FEMA to mitigate this issue before a severe hurricane or tropical storm devastates our Floridian communities.”
The letter noted that each year, Florida electric cooperatives and municipalities prepare for the upcoming hurricane season by stockpiling supplies. “When disasters occur, destroyed equipment needs to be replaced to ensure quick power restoration. The severe delay of critical parts has made this preparation nearly impossible, leaving many electric companies without reserves. It would take only one hurricane or severe tropical storm to cause devastating damage to our constituents, and with the absence of a stockpile, power restoration for these communities would take substantially longer than previous years.”
Local electric utilities “play a critical role in the growth and development of the communities they serve. Unfortunately, these new supply chain issues adversely affect the growth and management of these communities. Without proper equipment, local utilities must triage parts, which delays upgrades and ‘non-essential’ repairs,” the letter said.
The weakened systems “will make them more susceptible to damage when disaster occurs. FEMA must employ mitigation efforts with the local Florida electric community to ensure that transformers, bare wire, meters, and other electric grid equipment will be available ahead of the first disaster.”