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Supply chain issues hit the Huntsville electric grid

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huntsville utilities substation

Huntsville Utilities substation

City leaders are taking action to make sure Alabama's largest city can meet the needs of a growing population in the future.

That means ensuring the city has proper infrastructure, which is challenging when Huntsville Utilities is being hit with supply chain issues, leaving some parts and vehicles backlogged for months.

"I've been with the utility for 10 years. I've been monitoring it for a lot longer. This is the first time I've seen anything like this," said Joe Gehrdes, community relations director for Huntsville Utilities.

He explained just how bad the supply chain backup is, saying, "We did not receive one vehicle that we ordered for 2022. Nothing was delivered."

The city is now providing a solution. At Thursday's Huntsville City Council meeting, they approved four resolutions, budgeting millions of dollars for the next four years, so Huntsville Utilities can start filling that backlog now.

"As the package states, we have an obligation to make sure that our services can be delivered for our existing customers and the growth when it comes," Gehrdes told the council.

"It's extremely important, because obviously you can build everything you want, but if you can't energize it, it doesn't do any good," said Chip Cherry, the president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.

The chamber says growth is coming — we are the largest city in the state, after all. However, Huntsville needs the infrastructure to keep growing in a positive direction.

"All of those things are being positioned so we have a quality of place that attracts people to the community, so that you can grow in the direction that you want to grow," explained Cherry.

Gehrdes said good infrastructure also attracts more people.

"It's a recruiting tool. If word gets out that you're not reliable or you can't deliver service where it's needed, that word will get out quickly. And we don't want that to happen. It's never happened in Huntsville before, and it's not about to happen," he said.

Gehrdes said they are more than prepared for all of the expected growth, and by having this budgeted amount for the next four years, they can start ordering new vehicles and transformers right now to prepare for any backlog.

As of last August, Huntsville Utilities served roughly 196,900 customers. The budget approved at Thursday's council meeting will add nine new transformers throughout the county over the next few years, which will increase their service capacity by tens of thousands.

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