AEC Works to Meet Transformer Shortage During Unprecedented Demand

Appalachian Electric Cooperative (AEC) along with other utilities across the country, are getting low on overhead distribution transformers. These transformers decrease voltage traveling through power lines to a level that is suited for residential and commercial use and are essential for homes and businesses powered by electricity. According to AEC General Manager, Greg Williams, “We understand COVID-19 put constraints on labor needed to ramp up the building of transformers to meet demand. At AEC, we have taken immediate action to meet these demands. In addition to lack of supply, our service area has seen unprecedented growth over the last few years as families move into the East Tennessee Valley. We are working diligently to bridge the gap until our next shipment of transformers in late summer.” Williams continues, “Industry and manufacturing experts are indicating it will take up to one to two years to fully correct the shortfall and meet demand.”

While waiting on the next shipment of transformers, AEC is being proactive by using their GIS mapping system to locate transformers installed on the system, but not currently being utilized. These unused transformers can be relocated and reused for new services. The hope is to secure about 100 transformers through this method. AEC has also reached out to other transformer suppliers to purchase transformers. They have also reserved several new transformers for emergency use only. In addition, AEC has contacted their normal supplier of overhead transformers (ERMCO), and they were able to supply a few additional new overhead transformers. Further options include design modifications. Staking technicians are looking to change the design of new subdivisions and services to try to utilize the transformers they have in stock.

As AEC works to find transformers across their system and across the country, other measures are being put into place. As of Monday, May 23, all new service orders to non-residential or non-commercial structures will be put on hold for at least six months. This includes barns, sheds, boat docks, etc. If the new service requires hanging a new transformer, the order will be placed on hold. The goal is to try and serve these locations from existing transformers, otherwise they will be put on hold. In addition, AEC will no longer hang a transformer for a temporary service. Transformers are only being installed at the time of the permanent service. They will communicate to local contractors/builders that they will need to use portable generators for construction. If the temporary service can be served from an existing transformer, then the service can be installed.

In addition to these measures, Williams met with Marsha Blackburn, and with the staff of Senator Hagerty in Washington D.C. “In our meeting with Senator’s Hagerty’s Chief of Staff, the subject of supply chain, and in particular, the shortage of transformers came up. Hagerty’s staff expressed great concern. As a result, the staff made a commitment to see if they could meet with and tour the ERMCO transformer facility in Dyersburg, Tennessee that supplies many of our transformers. They want to evaluate the situation and see if there is anything they can do to better understand the supply chain problems and find assistance or help with improvements.”

Williams continues, “AEC staff continues to meet every two weeks to check the status of transformer supply and adjust plans as needed. We remain committed to providing service to our members, and we are dedicated to exhausting every option available to us to serve our members.”