In a recent media briefing, Tom Kent, President and CEO of Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), detailed how NPPD has taken a proactive approach in response to ongoing supply chain challenges facing the utility sector.
“We are seeing, just like any other business, impacts in supply chain and the ability to get needed resources,” Kent said in the virtual press briefing on July 8.
“We do plan ahead and have materials set aside and reserved for emergencies,” he noted.
Kent said that spring is a very active storm season in Nebraska, “and so we typically see damage to our system from tornados, high winds, et cetera, that we have to repair, and we’ve had several cases of that this spring. We were able to get all those facilities repaired expeditiously and in service because we had stocks available and set aside what we call storm stock.”
The reserves have decreased and NPPD is “monitoring the time it’s going to take to get those supplies restocked in our system.”
Kent said that the “supply chain is congested right now, so to get resupplies right now, it’s taking longer. The costs to get materials is higher than it has been traditionally. But again, it’s part of what we manage.”
Kent said that “we saw this coming – even a year ago, as we were planning for power plant maintenance outages,” NPPD started “working very closely with our customers, put special teams together to focus on ensuring we had the materials we need with enough time so that we could do the work we” needed to do.
He went on to say that “in the case of utilities, one of the areas that we are monitoring really closely is transformers and getting transformers to support other activities in the communities.”
Kent said that part of the supply chain story involves inflationary pressures that are being seen “across the nation, quite frankly. We account for that and look at those types of issues in terms of future costs as we forecast what we need for rates in the future. Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty about future prices, but we are in a really good position financially.”
He noted that “we’ve held our rates stable on the retail side of our business for the last nine years, on the wholesale side of our business for the last five years. We’re currently running with about a $30 million surplus this year.”
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.