Texas Utility Commission Sees Few Problems

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Friday March 19, 5:57 pm Eastern Time

Texas utility commission sees few Y2K problems

AUSTIN, Texas, March 19 (Reuters) - The lights will come on and the telephones will work in Texas as the clock strikes 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1, 2000, the chairman of the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) said Friday.

``An astronaut circling Earth on Jan. 1, 2000, should be able to look down and see Texas shining like a beacon,'' PUC Chairman Pat Wood said, citing a Year 2000 compliance update issued Friday by the commission's Y2K Project Team and members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

Approximately 90 percent of ERCOT's critical electric systems have been tested, according to Sam Jones, director of ERCOT's Independent System Operator (ISO).

Jones said electric utilities in Texas plan two major testing dates for equipment and procedures. The first is April 9, the 99th day of 1999, and the second is Sept. 9, the ninth day of the ninth month in '99.

Those dates could trigger operational failures in data bases that have end codes of 9999, Jones said.

Jones said the state's largest utilities, serving more than 80 percent of the state's telephone and electric customers, report they will be fully compliant by June 30.

The nine investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and 85 electric cooperatives predict Y2K impact on electrical services ``will be minimal,'' according to Jones.

Among the largest IOUs, Dallas-based Texas Utilities (NYSE:TXU - news) has developed a contingency plan that includes a minimum of seven to 10 days' fuel supply for each of its generating units, according to the PUC.

There also are 75 municipally-owned utilities in Texas serving 1.3 million customers, Wood said, and the PUC has little regulatory authority over their practices. A report from the Texas Public Power Association will be released in June.

The largest 10 municipals expect to meet full Y2K compliance by June 1, according to Wood.

The investor-owned utilities serve 70 percent of the state's customers. Electric cooperatives serve 15 percent, with the rest served by municipal power companies.

Jones compared any likely disruptions on Jan. 1 with those experienced at other times by the grid.

``We have distribution problems daily,'' Jones said. ``We also have major equipment failures,'' he said, adding that the state's power grid managed to survive widespread flooding and major damage from a tornado last December.

Wood said his concerns about failures in small municipal or cooperative systems have been allayed by efforts by those groups to work for compliance.

``A year ago, I was extremely concerned about the readiness of the smaller municipally-owned and smaller cooperatively-owned utilities,'' Wood said.

``Part of the blessing is some of these smaller utilities have had their equipment long enough to where computers were never an issue,'' Wood said.

``I am guardedly optimistic. I couldn't have said that six months ago,'' Wood said. ``I think these folks have all taken it seriously. From the little companies to the big, they have committed the kind of resources that this commission has asked them to commit to make sure that these systems stay reliable.''

Asked where he would be on New Year's Eve this year, Wood said: ``I won't be in an airplane or underneath one. I will be in my house watching Dick Clark ringing it in New York and ringing it in in Chicago and ringing it in in Sydney. I expect that my TV will be working and that my telephone will be there so that I can call my mother-in-law and wish her a Happy New Year.''

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), March 19, 1999


Anybody that's as happy-faced as these clueless are in the face of O.J. type evidence is cause enough to make me want to buy another solar panel. Interconnection? No Biggy. Power grid. Well on their way. Solar Flares. I'll buy sunglasses. PR PR PR PR PR PR PR PR

-- PJC (paulchri@msn.com), March 19, 1999.

This is one of those posts that the Pollys will say does not get given the same serious consideration as bad news would.

This post is great news. And since I live in Texas, I'm darn happy to hear it.

And since Texas is an island apart from the whole rest of the country, world, universe, I now feel safe and snug that everything will be A-OK.

Darn it, this subject is making me cynical....

PJ in TX

-- PJ Gaenir (fire@firedocs.com), March 20, 1999.

Liars, liars, liars, liars, liars, liars, liars, liars, liars.

I'm sick of this stuff. Of course, I'm sure that we can prove that they are lying.

Right guys?

Release the hounds!

-- Ken L. Ration (dog@catcher.com), March 20, 1999.

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