NEMA Supports Legislation That Would Establish a Strategic Transformer Reserve Program

Emily Heitman, vice president and general manager of commercial operations for medium and large power transformers at ABB, testified at a congressional hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power in favor of HR 2244, which would establish a strategic transformer reserve program. Legislation was introduced by House Grid Innovation Caucus Co-chairs Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

The bill is a provision in the comprehensive grid modernization draft legislation discussed at the subcommittee hearing. Heitman appeared on behalf of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

According to NEMA president and CEO Kevin J. Cosgriff, large power transformers (LPTs) are integral components of the nation’s electric grid. If a single LPT is damaged for any reason, including a natural disaster, a substantial power disturbance could result. Multiple, concurrent transformer outages could result in significant, widespread outages.

“NEMA thanks Representatives Ellmers and McNerney for their leadership in introducing HR 2244, and we appreciate the support from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield for including it in their grid modernization discussion draft. This much-needed legislation would direct the Department of Energy to produce a plan to create a strategic transformer reserve program, an idea supported by NEMA and its members as a way to bolster the United States’ capacity to respond quickly to the loss of one or multiple large power transformers,” he says.

Heitman testified that LPTs cost millions of dollars and involve production lead times ranging from 12 to 24 months.

“Periodic material and component shortages can add to production delays,” she says. “Should an event occur that requires a replacement transformer, utilities would face a long delay if that replacement unit is not already built. Having appropriate reserves of LPTs at points around the country would mitigate this challenging gap and complement existing industry programs.”

Cosgriff concurred. “As Heitman noted, given the multiple factors involved in establishing a large power transformer reserve program, NEMA agrees that it makes sense to begin with DOE’s comprehensive plan and analysis prior to implementation,” he says.

A similar recommendation to examine the details of a regional transformer reserve program was included in the administration’s recently released Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). NEMA’s response to the QER can be read at on the NEMA website.

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