International Trade Administration launches supply chain data visualization tool


In the world of electric utilities and network operators, the international supply chain for electrical equipment and components has become increasingly important. Supply chain shortages have become a reality for power companies following the COVID-19 pandemic. Products such as electricity meters and generators are in short supply due to a variety of factors, including chip shortages and broader macroeconomic trends. In June 2021, the White House announced the creation of a Supply Chain Disruption Task Force to look into the matter, and in February 2022, the Department of Energy released its own set of reports putting highlight critical inputs to secure America’s clean energy supply chain. Needless to say, the subject of supply chain is a priority for many.

As U.S. utilities and asset managers seek to make more informed integrated resource planning decisions, increasing awareness and transparency around the global energy commodity supply chain is critical. ITA (ITA) recently released the US Energy Trade Dashboard, an intuitive and user-friendly data visualization tool that allows users to visualize US trade data across eight sectors, over 40 subsectors and over 500 unique energy products. The Dashboard is a public online resource that does not require user registration or fees; simply visit the website from your desktop or mobile device (desktop is best) to access the Power BI-based tool. Users can seamlessly switch between export and import data over the past 20 years, providing insight into U.S. commercial interests across energy industries worldwide and providing insights into imported products that end up on the American network. You can even download the underlying data to run your own analysis.

In the “Electrical Infrastructure” sector of the dashboard, users can find U.S. trade statistics for traditional transmission and distribution products such as lightning arresters, circuit breakers, transformers, switchgears, meters, and more. The products listed in the electrical infrastructure sector are delineated into 10 sub-sector codes, each containing a basket of products. For example, under the “Transformers” subsector code, users can find detailed statistics for 13 different varieties of transformers based on KVA rating and insulation type. Users can see different distribution level transformers ranging from 1 KVA to large power transformers exceeding 100,000 KVA. By selecting the “Product Overview” view, users can find statistics at the individual product level, giving users significantly greater visibility into where imported products are shipped outside of the United States.

Data found in the dashboard shows that in 2021, the United States imported just under $6 billion worth of equipment in the electrical infrastructure sector. The largest volume of electricity infrastructure imports into the United States – just under 60% – came from Mexico and Canada, which are Free Trade Agreement partners under the United States -United-Mexico-Canada (USMCA). This reflects the tightly integrated manufacturing supply chains for network equipment in North America and the common electricity market dynamics across the continent. The North American grid operates at 60 Hertz, compared to 50 Hertz in most of the rest of the world. North American utilities also more frequently use equipment using industry standards by organizations such as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE), among others, compared to to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards that are more commonly used in other parts of the world. Finally, the close geographic proximity of Mexico and Canada means shorter transportation logistics for equipment.

However, as you drill down to the subsector or product level, this dynamic may vary. Consider the two individual products with the largest import values: large power transformers (LPTs) and electricity meters. TPLs were by far the highest imported product in monetary value in the power infrastructure sector. Imports of liquid dielectric transformers over 100,000 KVA (HS 8504230080) accounted for over $720 million in 2021. Imports from Mexico accounted for 21.13%, followed by Austria (17.18%), Netherlands (15.09%), Canada (10.47%), South Korea (9.43%), Brazil (9.33%) and 12 other countries representing the remaining value. Compare this to electricity meters (HS 9028300000); of the $497 million in meters imported, Mexico and Canada accounted for 92.24% and 4.14% of the value, while 38 countries accounted for the remaining 3.62%.

Everyone in the industry knows that LPTs and electricity meters are fundamentally different products, but they are both essential to the operation of the network. For large power transformers, the basic devices through which about 90% of the nation’s electricity passes, manufacturers need exceptional levels of technical skill, factory space and specialized equipment to produce products. massive and made to measure. Very few manufacturing processes are automated and virtually every unit is built to order. Although geographic proximity is an advantage, other factors such as access to skilled labor and material inputs play an important role.

For electricity meters, critical devices at the edge of the network used to measure customer consumption, the manufacturing process is very different. Original equipment manufacturers are taking full advantage of automation to mass-produce meters in the thousands. Unlike custom-built LPTs, electricity meters are built to physical dimension standards: in North America, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) C12.20 standard specifies the outline and dimensions of terminals for counters, which are usually round. This is different from most of the rest of the world, where the rectangular shape specified by IEC 62052 is more commonly adopted. Therefore, the demand for electricity meters in North America is almost entirely met by the North American supply.

Historically, network operators have been more concerned with the performance of the product than its origin: as long as the device meets the performance requirements, there is no problem. However, utilities are paying more and more attention to the origin of their products. The Department of Energy acknowledges in its article on Securing Critical Electrical Infrastructure that the increasing prevalence of critical electrical system equipment from China presents a significant threat to US critical infrastructure. Increasing visibility into the electrical equipment and component supply chain is critical, and the US Energy Trade Dashboard is an additional tool for utilities and grid operators.

Visit the US Energy Trade Dashboard at:

Andrew Moyseowicz is a senior international trade specialist in the Bureau of Energy and Environmental Industries of the U.S. International Trade Administration, a federal agency within the Department of Commerce that enhances the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promotes trade and investment and ensures fair trade through enforcement of US trade laws and agreements. He is responsible for designing and implementing international trade, investment and export promotion strategies that enhance the global competitiveness of the US electric power industry. Mr. Moyseowicz holds a BA in Political Science and History from Emmanuel College and an MPA from Princeton University.


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