U.S. power companies face supply-chain crisis this summer

June 29 (Reuters) – U.S. power companies are facing supply shortages that could hamper their ability to keep the lights on as the country heads into summer heat and hurricane season.

Extreme weather events such as storms, wildfires, and drought are becoming more common in the United States. Consumer energy consumption is expected to reach all-time highs this summer, which could put a strain on power grids at a time when federal agencies are warning that weather could pose reliability issues.

Utilities warn of equipment supply constraints, which could hamper efforts to restore power during outages. They are also finding it harder to replenish natural gas stocks for next winter as electric generators burn record amounts of gas following the shutdown of dozens of coal-fired power plants in recent years and extreme drought cuts hydroelectricity supply in many western states.

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“Increasingly frequent cold spells, heat waves, droughts and major storms continue to test the ability of our nation’s electrical infrastructure to deliver reliable and affordable power to consumers,” said Richard Glick, chairman of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). month.

Federal power reliability agencies like FERC have warned that grids in the western half of the country could face reliability issues this summer as consumers crank up air conditioners to escape the heat. Read more

Some utilities have already experienced heat issues. Texas grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), was forced to urge customers to save energy after several plants unexpectedly shut down during an early heat wave in mid -may. Read more

In mid-June, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co (AEP.O) imposed service outages during a heat wave after a storm damaged transmission lines and knocked out power to more than 200,000 homes and businesses.

The U.S. Midwest faces the most serious risk as demand rises as nuclear and coal power supplies have dwindled. Read more

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which operates the network from Minnesota to Louisiana, has warned that parts of its coverage area are at increased risk of temporary outages to preserve network integrity.

Supply chain issues have already delayed the construction of renewable energy projects across the country. These recurring delays, coupled with tight power supply in the Midwest, prompted Wisconsin’s WEC Energy Group Inc (WEC.N) and Indiana’s NiSource Inc (NI.N) to delay planned coal-fired plant shutdowns in recent years. month.

PREPARE FOR SUPPLY SHORTAGES

Utility operators keep their inventory of parts and equipment as they plan for severe storms. Over the past few months, that means operators have gotten creative.

“We’re doing a lot more splicing, cable assembly, instead of laying new cable because we’re trying to hold our new cable for inventory when we need it,” said Nick Akins, general manager of ‘AEP, during the CERAWeek energy conference in March.

Transformers, which often sit atop utility poles and convert high-voltage power to power used in homes, are rare.

The managing director of New Jersey-based Public Service Enterprise Group Inc (PSEG) (PEG.N), Ralph Izzo, told Reuters the company had to look for other supply options for low-voltage transformers.

“You don’t want to deplete your inventory because you don’t know when this storm is coming, but you know it’s coming,” Izzo said.

Some utilities are facing wait times of more than a year for transformer parts, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the American Public Power Association told U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, in a May letter.

Summer is just getting started, but the weather in the United States so far this year has already been around 21% warmer than the 30-year norm, according to data provider Refinitiv.

“If we have successive days of 100-degree heat, these pole-top transformers, they start popping like Rice Krispies, and we wouldn’t have the supply pile to replace them,” Izzo said.

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Reporting by Scott DiSavino and David Gaffen in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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