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ASCM Insights

Deep Freeze Taxes Power Grids, Delays Vaccine Shipments

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This week, a winter storm battered numerous regions of the United States — including many areas that are inexperienced with, and ill-equipped to handle, frozen roads and bitter cold. As temperatures plummeted, demand for energy surged, leaving millions without power and increasing energy spot prices by a staggering 3,466%.

The polar vortex also severely upset vaccine distribution, shutting down clinics and impeding shipments. Although many people scheduled to receive their second doses will now have to wait, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the delay will not decrease the booster’s effectiveness.

According to Bloomberg, more than 800 daily records for cold temperatures were set this week.

The utilities in the Southwest Power Pool continued rolling cutoffs of power service to customers as a way to manage extreme demand, David R. Montgomery writes in The New York Times. “Controlled blackouts were announced in Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and elsewhere,” he adds. “In Nebraska, the Omaha Public Power District’s planned outages were affecting about 10,000 customers for an hour at a time on a rotating basis.”

One Texas utility warned that the grid manager was unable to predict when conditions will stabilize. All customers were urged to prepare for continued extended outages.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News reports system-wide power outages across the state: “A loss of frequency on the grid has caused 30 gigawatts of generation to halt. … The power crunch is being compounded by a lack of wind generation with output more than halving to 4.2 gigawatts.”

The article goes on to explain that wind turbines often freeze in bitterly cold weather, causing the blades to stop spinning. With wind power being the fastest-growing energy source in Texas, this is a serious problem. It’s also an interesting paradox, as immobilized turbines highlight the need for traditional energy sources, such as oil — yet global warming is a key driver of extreme weather.

ASCM CONNECT+

There’s no doubt that climate change is a complex issue and one that continues to alter the global economy immeasurably. Supply chains must play their part to set today’s businesses on the right path forward. One trailblazer in this arena is WinCup, a manufacturer of disposable, biodegradable cups, bowls, containers, straws and lids. WinCup’s environmental platform includes reducing energy consumed during steam production through increased boiler maintenance and conserving water with closed-loop cooling towers.

In addition, the company uses heat-recovery, automatic blow-down systems, and low-pressure air and lighting to conserve natural gas, chemicals and electricity. WinCup also upcycles expanded polystyrene scrap via foam into new products.

At ASCM CONNECT+, WinCup President and CEO Michael Winters will join ASCM Editor-in-Chief Elizabeth Rennie for a fireside chat. They will explore WinCup’s real-world strategies for building sustainability into a supply chain. The March 17 event will also feature my chat with BBC World News America’s Katty Kay on supporting and inspiring talent post-pandemic, a panel discussion on procurement in 2021 and beyond, a deep dive into supply chain risk management, and much more.

I hope you will join us for this exciting virtual learning series. Learn more and register today.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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