Supply Chain Challenges

By Kris Polly

Supply chain disruptions and delays have filled the news for a year now. But how have those disruptions played out for the utilities, manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors in the hydro industry? This month, we dive into the question. 

Our cover interview is with Debra Smith, the general manager and CEO of Seattle City Light, which serves a population of nearly a million and gets 86 percent of its energy from hydropower. Ms. Smith tells us about the utility’s push toward electrification, its plans for a new generation, and its experiences with supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Also on the utility side, Jan Nimick, the vice president for power generation at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, or PG&E, tells us about sudden raw material price increases and availability issues, among other shocks, and about the need to take a long-term view. Ty Ehrman, the managing director of power production at Grant Public Utility District in Washington, tells us about how the utility is addressing material availability issues and delays and the challenges of retaining employees in a new era of hybrid work while preserving its low rates and attracting new industrial customers. 

Turbine manufacturer Mavel’s U.S. regional sales manager, N. Christian Porse, tells us about challenges related to material costs, pricing risk, and the difficulties of keeping projects on schedule. Meanwhile, Darren Lampe tells us that his small specialty construction company D.A. Lampe Construction has been facing unpredictable price increases for raw materials and components. And Paul Meeks, the president and founder of Worthington Products, tells us about the price increases and shipping delays he has seen and how his company is shifting from a supply-chain model to a supply-net concept in response. 

We also speak with Stuart Cohen, a senior energy analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), about NREL’s work to create models for pumped hydro storage to enable researchers and policymakers to compare pumped hydro feasibility and cost with other energy storage technologies. 

Finally, we preview the National Hydropower Association’s Clean Currents conference, which will be held the week of October 17 in Sacramento, California. Marla Barnes, NHA’s vice president of membership and industry engagement, tells us about what makes this event, run by the industry, for the industry, unique and valuable. 

The many entities that make possible the provision of clean, carbon-neutral hydroelectric power to U.S. consumers are all being affected by supply chain issues in different ways, but all are responding with the robustness and creativity we expect from this vibrant industry. I hope you enjoy learning more. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at