Material Shortages and Supply Chain Disruptions are Causing Delays 10/28/2021

UPDATE (3/17/2022)

Supply chain shortages persist across the utility and construction industries, and the situation has worsened since late 2021. EWEB is very concerned about our ability to meet timelines for electric and water construction projects. In particular, we are running severely low on a few types of transformers that are necessary to complete certain projects.

To ensure our supply of transformers does not dip too low, EWEB is paying price premiums multiple times higher than usual for transformers. Customers should expect price increases over time, but because we don't know how long shortages will last, we don't yet know what those price increases might be. EWEB will be evaluating cost impact to customers closely and will communicate any changes as available.

Here are a few key points to remember:

  • A growing backlog of orders across the industry is making it extremely challenging to meet demand.
  • There are major shortages nationwide of electric distribution transformers, underground cable, substation equipment, electric meters and construction equipment.  
  • We don’t have reliable estimates of lead times for equipment, and we don’t know how long shortages might last. 
  • Though we can’t speculate on whether these shortages will impact system reliability or outage restoration, we are currently in good standing for the type of equipment that typically fails during storms, as well as for failures that occur throughout the year.
  • EWEB is minimizing the impact of the shortages by procuring more equipment, despite very high costs. We are also looking outside our normal supply chains, stockpiling retired equipment for refurbishment, adapting new construction standards for flexibility and requesting mutual aid from peers. 
  • EWEB will install materials for customers on a first come, first ready basis for customers that have inspections complete and permits ready. 

If your project is currently in design or close to construction and you have questions around this, please contact the engineering technician assigned to your project. If you are planning a project with EWEB or are currently waiting in the queue for a project and have questions about your situation, contact our Distribution Design Team to discuss how your project may be affected. Call 541-685-7521 or email distributionengineering@eweb.org.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE (10/28/2021)

At EWEB we depend on a variety of goods and services to provide safe, reliable, and affordable water and power to customers throughout our community. Recent material shortages across the globe are impacting supply chains that provide those goods and services.

These supply chain disruptions and unpredictable lead times have EWEB increasingly concerned about our ability to meet timelines for electric and water construction projects. Although we don't want to cause alarm, we do think that customers need to prepare accordingly.

To that end, we are asking developers and other potentially impacted customers to plan for delays caused by material shortages in their active and upcoming construction and renovation projects. 

We are seeing major shortages and issues with the following utility equipment:

  • Electric distribution transformers
  • Underground cable
  • Electric distribution switchgear
  • Underground secondary service boxes
  • Construction equipment fleet
  • Substation power equipment
  • Electric and water meters

At this time, we don't have reliable estimates from suppliers on lead times for equipment. We also don't know how long the shortages might last, or if additional equipment might be impacted at some point.

Because of uncertainties regarding the time horizon, we can't speculate on whether these shortages could eventually impact system reliability or outage restoration. Fortunately, for the equipment that is most often impacted by winter storms, such as residential single phase pole top transformers and cable, we are currently in good standing on inventory. 

Steps we are taking:

We are working diligently to minimize the impact of material supply shortages, and in some cases taking a creative approach to the challenge.

Actions include:

  • Working to boost our inventory levels by searching for additional product beyond our normal supply chains, such as refurbished units
  • Focusing only on essential work at this time, such as compliance-driven, obligation to serve, or restoration, while deferring internally driven reliability and strategic work
  • Stockpiling retired equipment for repair or refurbishment
  • Requesting Mutual Aid from peer utilities
  • Identifying idle equipment in the system for repurposing

These supply constraints are not unique to EWEB and our community. Other utilities across the country are experiencing similar shortages on a global scale.

If your project is currently in design or close to construction and you have questions around this, please contact the engineering technician assigned to your project. If you are planning a project with EWEB or are currently waiting in the queue for a project and have questions about your situation, contact our Distribution Design Team to discuss how your project may be affected. Call 541-685-7521 or email distributionengineering@eweb.org.

We appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers. Although these delays are out of our control, we will do our best to meet our community needs without impacting safety, reliability and affordability.