Energy Department Poised to Zap Nation’s Electrical Transformers, Which are Already in Short Supply

by Leslie Eastman at

Professor Jacobson recently reviewed the alarming state of the nation’s electric grid. Large portions of this country are at risk of running short of power as electricity-hungry data centers and clean-technology factories proliferate around the country.

The situation is not helped by eco-activists throughout the country shuttering energy-efficient nuclear power plants and destroying hydroelectric dams to save fish species. Weather-dependent, energy-inefficient wind and solar power cannot take up the slack caused by closing coal plants.

It must be noted that fuel is just one part of the energy equation. Equipment and materials necessary to distribute the energy are another consideration. For example, distribution transformers are critical to the steady flow of electricity along the power grid by changing high-voltage electricity from transmission lines into low-voltage electricity before it reaches consumers.

Unfortunately, there are concerns arising about the shortage of transformers. National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) researchers recently produced a report, Major Drivers of Long-Term Distribution Transformer Demand, that looked at this issue.

“Distribution transformers are a bedrock component of our energy infrastructure,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researcher Killian McKenna said. “But utilities needing to add or replace them are currently facing high prices and long wait times due to supply chain shortages. This has the potential to affect energy accessibility, reliability, affordability—everything.”

Reasons given for the shortages and price spikes include increased raw material demand, pandemic-related shortages and backlogs, labor constraints, shipping issues, and geopolitical tensions. In some parts of the world, the shortages are acute.