Utilities expect few Y2K risks

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Utilities expect few Y2K risks

If the nation's power grid goes down, Western Resources says, it could be back on-line in 24 hours.

By Hurst Laviana The Wichita Eagle

Local utility representatives fielded pointed questions about their ability to provide services after Jan. 1 at a forum that drew more than 200 people to Wichita State University on Tuesday.

The questions, posed at a meeting of the Wichita Year 2000 Forum, reflected a general unease about the reliability of sewer, water and electric services.

Will the sewers in Wichita back up if the electricity goes out, one woman wanted to know. "If you don't have electricity you won't have water," Jerry Blain of the Wichita Water Department explained. "You're only going to get to flush the toilet once." The sewers will be empty.

What about a worst-case scenario? What if the nation's entire power grid goes down?

"I'd say in a worst-case scenario, you're probably looking at 24 hours" before Western Resources has all power plants back in operation, said Clyde Hill, a representative from that company.

And what if some utilities are only 98 or 99 percent ready? "I've heard it'll blow up the whole shebang? ... . Is that right?" one man wanted to know.

The gas, water, electricity and telephone company representatives downplayed the odds of any major problems occurring in January 2000.

"We're in the reliability business, and we plan to be that way on Jan 1," said Cindy Johnson, Southwestern Bell's representative. "I can assure you the telephone system will work."

The Y2K problem stems from the fact that many computers and computer chips track years using two digits instead of four. On Jan. 1, 2000, some computers will lose track of the year.

Most of those attending the forum at the Wichita State University Hughes Metropolitan Complex were concerned primarily with electricity.

Hill told the group most of Western Resources' equipment is not date-sensitive. Equipment that is will be Y2K-ready long before Jan. 1, he said.

January is a low-demand month for electrical suppliers, Hill said, and Western Resources probably will be using only about 40 percent of its generating capacity.

If the national power grid should collapse, Hill said, Western Resources would disconnect from the grid and enact it's "black start plan." That would involve restarting each of its power plants from scratch. Power could be restored to customers in Hutchinson and Wichita within four to six hours, he said, and the rest of the system could be online in a day.

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), March 24, 1999


Good afternoon Norm. Here's a snip from the US Senate report on Y2K: <:)=

At the time of the hearing, there was a lack of industry-wide survey data of the electric power industry. As a result, the Committee staff surveyed five large electric and five large gas and oil companies to obtain cursory readiness information. Figure 3 below displays the result of the survey. Based on the survey results, the Committee concluded that the utilities were proceeding in the right direction, but the pace of remedial efforts was too slow and there was so much remaining to be done that there was significant cause for concern. Only two of the eight firms reported completion of assessment, making assertions of Y2K compliance by December 1999 highly suspect. Committee concern was heightened because the most difficult tasksrenovation and testingwere yet to come. The utilities lack of information regarding Y2K compliance of their major suppliers, vendors, and service providers created additional concerns about the utilities assertions of readiness. The survey results raise significant levels of concern given that the firms surveyed were among the largest utilities and were dedicating many resources to Y2K (collectively over $400 million). Smaller firms with fewer resources are presumably further behind in their Y2K remediation efforts.

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), March 24, 1999.

I expect to have a job tomorrow but I have no guarantees. The problem is no utility can guarantee anything. "In a worst-case scenario," they expect the power to be off only 24 hours? How did they arrive at 24 hours? Why not 1 hour or 2 hours if they are so certain nothing is going to happen. As usual, Sysman is right on top of things.

-- ruddy (ruddy@source.com), March 24, 1999.

In our last bill from our power company, PG&E, they stated that they are not guaranteeing that the power will remain on and for everyone to plan accordingly. That's an eye opener for a power company to confess to.

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), March 24, 1999.

FPL South florida region state in thier web site:

"As of December31, 1998,FPL has completed about 80% of it's y2k project for critical and important systems. The critical and importatn systems work remaining in 1999 is predominantly tied to vendor upgrades or work to be done during scheduled power plant shutdowns.....

FPL expects it's Y@K project to be complete by JUNE 1999, with the EXCEPTION of work on one plant system at one site which will be completed in OCT 1999."

The above worries me. You see FPL began a lot of thier y2k project work in 1995, ( a lot sooner then other utilities)

in the section FAQ:

Will FPL serivce to customers be affected when we enter the Year 2000?

"We are working hard to avoid major service disruption to our customers, and we are taking an aggressive approach to resolving Y2k issues. HOWEVER, we are dependenet in some cases on the performance of third parties (other interconnecting electric utilities, fuel suppliers, water providers, communicatiuons companies, etc)"

The Domino effect in other words or is it which comes 1st the chicken or the egg?

Now don't take this wrong. I thank FPL for providing for information to the general public on it's web site regarding it's y2k status then other utlities. But I lived through 4 weeks of no power in Hurricane Andrew and 2 weeks without safe drinking water .

The major difference was that back then it was localized and if you got in your car and drove for two hours you could always rent a hotel with A/C and running water.

Btw just so you know how much that month effected me, when we finally got power after the hurricane the very 1st thing I did was to kiss my meter.

-- Carmen Galloway (y2kmiamifl@aol.com), March 24, 1999.

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