"Electrical Power Grid Forum", Wash DC, 10/1/1998

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Last night, George Washington University sponsored a forum addressing electric utility issues, with emphasis on the Washington, D.C. area (e.g., one of the industry reps with PEPCO). Since this event was literally hosted by The Washington Post, in fact in their very headquarters in D.C., I am going to hope that this will get reported in the newspapers. But I thought that a brief sketch of what was said would be worth kicking off a thread. (I'll try to be real objective on what follows, and follow up with my opinions if the thread goes anywhere.) ................................................................ There were 4 panelists: 2 industry reps (1 PEPCO), 1 "independent" consultant to the industry, and 1 financial investment consultant for Y2K issues. Basically, the first 3 more or less stood by the recent NERC report's "cautious optimism", and said that the industry was working very hard, and the most encouraging news that they had was that so far it looked like, on the basis of what had been checked, Y2K problems were not as prevalent as originally anticipated. There was a lot of insistence that things could be done manually if need be, and that contingency plans were being made (for instance, PEPCO is coal-fired, and plans to stockpile 3 months worth of coal for 1/1/2000). Testing is planned, with planned outages for PEPCO this Spring to accomodate the testing. The biggest worry from the industry's point of view is third party suppliers, and whether they are Y2K compliant -- especially telecommunications, as without telecomm, they are effectively shutdown. Likewise (and I had not heard this before), since maintaining electric power is such a delicate balancing act, a large consumer of electric power that suddenly ceased due to Y2K problems might be enough to bring down the show! The position was taken that it is too late to change any of the structure -- i.e., too late for government intervention, they know what to do, let them do it. And, for instance, PEPCO has already informed its employees that no vacation will be permitted from late Dec 1999 to early Jan 2000, so eveyone can be "on call" if need be. ................................................................ The invester broke from the ranks quite a bit, and said that the NERC report's cautiously-optimistic conclusions were not based on the data that they presented. Furthermore, that data was severely aggregated so as to make it impossible to actually glean who was actually doing what where. There are numerous serious questions regarding how and under what circumstances the grid will go down. Since the numerous, multiple failures that Y2K could bring have never occured, it is anyones guess as to what the effects would be. (He warmed to the audience when he said that he had 80 year old parents in Chicago, and that he was worried.) ................................................................ The moderator from GWU then offered his assessment, and got a big round of applause when he said that he thought that the optimisim being displayed could only be obtained by looking at individual "pieces" of the Y2K pie. When one looks at the whole picture, and sees the tremendous number of interdependencies, there is no such reasonableness to the optimism. ................................................................ Many comments/questions from the audience were entertained. A long sustained applause followed from the comment/question that was to the effect that there was clearly a "disconnect" between what the industry reps were stating, and what was independently being ascertained in the way of many, many Y2K problems that are known, and that the industry is not giving people the truthful answers that they need. The response, as near as I could figure, was to blame the lawyers for not allowing the industry reps to share the news that they wanted to. ................................................................ Ok, thats about as objective a summary as I can do. And when/if there is a newspaper write-up, we should post the URLs in this thread.

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), October 02, 1998


Very good Joe, thanks for the report.

An interesting side note about PEPCO. They have formed a new company called Starpower with website starpower.net. They are wiring the entire Washington Metro area with fiber optics cables and will be competing directly with Bell Atlantic for phone service and internet access. Also, some parts of the area, not DC yet, will be able to get cable TV through the same fiber optic cable. I've checked on availability for my house. The phone and internet is available now. I wonder if they will be using this new infrastructure for their own telecommunications. Any mention of that at the meeting?

-- Beltway Buddy (buddy@bellatlantic.net), October 02, 1998.

No, gosh, based on what was said at the meeting, I was definitely given the impression that every single PEPCO employee was slaving away at the grindstone fighting the Y2K good fight, with hardly a thought towards themselves, much less any other endeavors. [NOTE: My Objectivity Oath terminated when I finished posting the thread kick-off question. In fact, were it not for my Oath, I would have titled this thread something like "Its Back To The Caves, Baby!"] I wish that someone in the audience had raised the question, it would have been interesting to see how the PEPCO rep would have handled it.

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), October 02, 1998.

Timely! Another review of the NERC report appeared yesterday http:// www.y2ktoday.com/modules/home/default.asp?id=372&feature=&type=

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), October 02, 1998.

A few months ago, Pepco had a one page website. They have progressed to an updated version which says the same about Y2K as the old one. Nothing! They are more interested in deregulation and their ability to maintain profits while their monopoly is being dismembered than posting the teeniest little bit of info on the most important facet of the utility business. www.pepco.com.

Bethesda Mike

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), October 02, 1998.

Thanks, Joe, for the report. Just got back from NYC and am glad I don't live there anymore. Guess I'll keep stocking up on candles and flashlight batteries...

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), October 04, 1998.

One of the questions from the audience pertained as to whether de-regulation was hindering Y2K work. The answers given by the industry reps was rambling. Common sense screamed Of Course, but they could not actually admit that Y2K was anything less that Numero Uno (see Beltway Buddy's post above).

-- Joe (shar@pei.com), October 05, 1998.

3 months of coal? That used to be the standard stockpile till the Energy Board reduced it to 1 month under severe pressure from the industry. I have always felt 1 month was not enough for emergency usage - as in the blizzards of 78 when coal did not get through for several weeks to some plants. Didn't matter to them, though, the damn stuff froze so hard and tight the dozers could not push enough into the hoppers to fire the plants anyhow. Betcha didn't know the entire northern US area was run on nuclear power for a month now did ya! They did not brag about it, the industry was under such pressure from know nothing Greens at the time they would not have admitted to the Second Coming of Christ happening on nuclear power station property.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), October 05, 1998.

Did anyone see Saturday's article on how ready (not!) DC government is for y2k? Go to the Washington Post web-site (www.washingtonpost.com) and do a search through the last two weeks of articles either using "y2k" or "Year 2000" and you'll find it in 10/3/98 newspaper.

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), October 06, 1998.

I didn't see the article (will look for it) but did see News Channel 8's Midday report at noon last Saturday. Tom Davis (R-VA) from the DC Committee was on and he said flat out that Washington DC's systems will not be fixed in time because they started so late. They were currently "prioritizing" (triage??) which ones they could fix in the next 15 months.

-- Melinda Gierisch (gieriscm@hotmail.com), October 06, 1998.

Hey folks -- Did you see in today's Post that there is a live internet forum on y2k? It's for how y2k will affect folks. It's on The Navigator -- Live! today (Thursday, Oct.8th) from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at www.washingtonpost.com They'll be interviewing K.C. Bourne, author of "Year 2000 Solutions for Dummies."

This notice comes at the end of an article in the style section about y2k. It's on page D4. I won't be able to log on for the live forum, so if anyone get's a chance to do so, I'd love to know how it went.

-- Libby Alexander (libbyalex@aol.com), October 08, 1998.

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