Officials with Iowa’s Denison Municipal Utilities Detail Utility’s Response to Transformer Shortages

In a recent interview with Public Power Current, Rory Weis, General Manager of Iowa public power utility Denison Municipal Utilities (DMU), and Electric Manager Mike Wight, detailed how the utility is responding to delays for acquiring transformers due to ongoing supply chain challenges.

DMU’s Board of Trustees recently voted to allow utility staff to seek bids for a power transformer for a substation.

When asked to describe how supply chain issues have impacted the utility in terms of seeking bids for this transformer, Weis said, “the last substation transformer that we replaced approximately two years ago took close to a year to get. Supply chain issues now have pushed that out to, we’re being told, close to a two-year timeframe. We started the process a little sooner due to that fact so we can keep that project moving forward.”

Wight said that the utility has faced delays in orders for distribution transformers, noting that DMU ordered distribution transformers that were supposed to be delivered in July 2022 “and then we were told November and they’re still not here.” Wight said that the last email DMU got from its supplier indicated that the distribution transformer would be shipped this week.

With respect to the topic of pricing for transformers, Wight said that the last bid the utility received for the substation transformer was around $670,000 “and they’re estimating between $1.1 and $1.2 million on this one.”

As for the cost for distribution transformers, DMU has seen an increase in costs for 50 KVA single phase transformers in recent years.

With respect to the outlook for supply chain challenges and transformer delays, Weis said, “We hope we’re at the worst of it right now” and that it starts getting better, “but we have nothing to reference that to.”

Groups Urge DOE to Move Quickly to Alleviate Supply Chain Challenges With Transformers

At the national level, the American Public Power Association (APPA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), said in joint comments submitted to the Department of energy (DOE) on Nov. 30 that DOE should use Defense Production Act authorities to prioritize distribution transformers, large power transformers, and other critical grid components ahead of other technologies, and it should act quickly to alleviate the most acute supply chain challenge with distribution transformers.

The comments responded to a DOE request for information (RFI) that sought input from stakeholders on how DOE should use its authority under Title III of the DPA to address supply chain issues for clean energy technologies and distribution transformers.