From: Tuballa, Rene
Sent: Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009
To: Kathleen Davis
Subject: To the Editor
What happened to the U.S. power system industry? We are still the largest utility power products consumer in the world—or maybe China is right behind us—but it is sad to note that when you walk around any transmission station in the U.S., none of the new big-ticket items are made here. Yes, I am talking about high-value products such as transformers, breakers, reactor, cables, GIS, SVC, HVDC—except maybe bus structures and switches. It is ironic that almost all utility companies in the country are going through transmission upgrades, yet we are spending our money buying equipment from overseas. Even relays—there are only a few left that are manufactured in the U.S.
If we hadn’t abandoned the power system—or at least have the foresight that one day this will be once again big—we could still have the manufacturing base here, which means jobs and more jobs. Field service, sales and marketing jobs don’t count much compared with thousand of jobs in fully integrated manufacturing, which includes engineering and research. Now don’t tell me that manufacturing plants are moving overseas for labor cost advantages because I don’t know of any transformers, breakers GIS, etc., that are made in the third-world countries. In fact, these manufacturing plants are in Korea, Japan, Germany, U.K., Switzerland and Sweden, where wages are higher than in the U.S.
The United States is not the only country that is undergoing transmission infrastructures upgrading. It is all over the world. In China, India, Brazil and European countries, there is hardly any presence of companies with traditional roots in the U.S. that are involved in these upgrades. The big players now are companies from Europe and Asia. Imagine the jobs that could have been generated—especially in today’s economically depressing time—if we had maintained our manufacturing edge. Today in power systems, we are only good in selling and maintaining of foreign products; we do not have anymore the competitive edge that we had once. We lag behind in power system innovations, and we will continue to be that way unless we turn it around. We need to go back to the basics: first by restoring power system curriculum, second by perhaps asking the government to spend money in power system education so one day we can make good products. It is not yet too late!
Substation Lead Engineer
CORRECTION: DS2 was incorrectly identified as “a Lockheed Martin and Day Zimmermann company” in the October issue of POWERGRID International. DS2 is an innovator and global supplier of high-speed powerline communications technology. The editors at POWERGRID International apologize for this error.