My response to Robert Cook regarding power readinesss : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I never got a chance to respond to Mr. Cook's April 12 post on the "NERC Press release for April 9 test", so if someone could link to it I would appreciate it. Anyway, here's my response:

At one point you said "Where I am less optimistic than you is in your extrapolation of your single experience in testing the embedded chips in a single case, to my experience in the "whole system" - the whole process of getting power from the coal embedded in a rock wall 1500 feed underground to the 120 Volt outlets in 100,000,000 homes and businesses..."

Dan says: Ouch, that hurt, Robert. I've been involved in all facets of generation, transmission and distribution as it relates to Y2K, so I go from where the power is made right to those outlets, from the DCS in a power plant to the meter attached to your home. I've Y2K tested devices AND SYSTEMS in all these areas. ADMIT IT TO THE PEOPLE ON THIS FORUM, ROBERT, YOU HAVE NOT Y2K TESTED A SINGLE POWER DEVICE BECAUSE YOU DON'T WORK FOR A POWER COMPANY. Regarding the coal part, we've met with our coal providers to make sure they will be y2k ready; think about it--just as in power devices, most coal equipment is date-dumb and is totally immune to the y2k issue. You unnecessarily scare the people on this forum about coal, yet fail to mention that most coal power plants have a 10 to 30 day supply ON HAND, so even if there was a problem, they would have several days to fix it.

Robert says "But your experience is incomplete in that it doesn't cover the whole process. I've not specifically been overwhelmingly concerned about embedded chips...But the controller they report to, the loggin and control processor that act on this data (and the PC or embedded computer behind it) remain very vulnerable."

Dan says: Once again you obfuscate the process. In the transmission and distribution systems there is not a single "control processor" that is reported to in the manner you describe. In T&D, the only digital devices that without human intervention could trip a circuit breaker are protective relays (or recloser controllers). These are the very devices we have tested over and over again with success. Not ONE of these devices report to any controller. The power plants might have a few reporting devices, but I know of ZERO transmitters used in a power plant that passes on date data. Again, the best SYSTEM test for a power plant is to forward the system clock with the plant on line and connected to the grid. This has been successfully completed at more than 50 power plants nation-wide. It is true that power systems are very complex, but as it relates to Y2K, they are easily tested and fixed.

My greatest concern is that people on this forum seem to look to you as a kind of guru on power and y2k. Based on your statements, you couch your gloom and doom viewpoint with inaccurate general statements, and those who don't work in the power industry might be unnecessarily spooked about Y2K and power.

I do not think we shall ever agree on this Robert. So even though you didn't take me up on it the first time, I again offer you a gentleman's wager: If more than one half of one percent of power goes off (as a percentage of total load) 6 hours before or after the transition (1/1/2000) due to y2k problems, I will post the following on this forum:

"I, Dan the power man, was obviously clueless as to the problems with power and y2k. I most humbly apologize to this forum for either inadvertently or purposefully misleading people."

Similarly, you must admit the same if I win the wager. Anyone else willing to take the wager, sign up! How about it, Robert?

Dan the power man (thanks for the moniker, poster named "a")

-- Dan (, April 16, 1999


Good morning Dan. I think this is the LINK that you want. Not sure, since we have so many... <:)=

-- Sysman (, April 16, 1999.


A much more sporting proposition would be to say 72 hours, rather than 6. This would allow for the 0630 spin-up of the various factories, which would add to the load and generate the exception conditions that most of the people I read (outside of here) suggest would be the problems.


PS Your 6 hour window is a nice, conservative sucker bet, in MNTBHO

-- chuck, a Night Driver (, April 16, 1999.

Of course Robert could simply claim his winnings NOW by showing that there will be a severely decreased load (due to holiday shut-downs) which would be Y2K related decrease in "total load" figures.

Ummm, care to revise the wager?? You MIGHT even get someone to take you up on it.

And, yes, I may NOT be a power jock, but some of my classmates at Clagstone Technocratic U, the Nigra Slowhawk Field Office taught me a bit. errr that should be Clarkson, the Niagra Mohawk Farm Team (AAA)


-- chuck, a Night Driver (, April 16, 1999.

Hi Dan the Power Man, some questions. You seem to be the expert here or so you say.

1) Are you saying that electric companies do not need to remediate their systems in order to generate and deliver power in 2000? 2)If the answer to the above question is no.....are you saying that all 4000 or so electrical companies will be Y2k compliant by 12/31/1999, and that there will be no power outages or brown outs in 2000 in the US? 3)If so, how do you know that? 4)How do you know that all supply chains to fuel power generation plants including pipelines, railroads, oil (domestic & international) and coal suppliers will be compliant?

These are sincere questions and I'd like to be assured, so take no offense and please answer my questions.

-- Cary Mc from Tx (, April 16, 1999.


As an avowed utility embedded systems expert perhaps you can help me with your opinion.

Late February I asked our local electric generator/provider in a public forum a question. I asked if they were aware of Smith Kline's experience with like kind testing, and were they doing like kind testing of embedded systems. The man's response (and he DID sound quite well informed about his company's work) was 'Smith Kline who?' and that the company was doing both like kind testing and computer modeling of embedded systems. I got the 'impression' that hands on testing was at a minimum and this matches what I was told by one of their people privatly last year.

My question Dan: Does this make sense? Is this the way a utility should test systems and is there any danger or good that comes from this kind of hands off testing?

Hope you can advise....

Regards, Art Welling

-- Art Welling (, April 16, 1999.

i recommend that all you guys look at the u.s. army slide show about the power grid. a link to it was posted up on gary north's forum today.

-- jocelyne slough (, April 16, 1999.

There have been at least three Utilities that have recommended their customers prepare. PG&E, SoCalEd, and one back East I don't have the name of offhand. All were discussed here on Yourdan.

Those recommendations made it past each company's teams of lawyers

They _did raise people's concern level often with the result that the people _have begun to prep with generators, food, extra money, etc - rather at odds with the "don't panic" standard natl propaganda line. One could even make a case that the warnings could _cause a bit of anxiety or panic. Yet these warnings made it past each team of lawyers.

The Calif two utilities service more than 30M customers, don't know how big the one back East is. Point being is that the Utilities _did_ tell people that they might want to prepare.

While I doubt not Dan the power man's reporting on his experience, I also must factor these Utility warnings and the fact that the Utilities _made_ the warnings.

-- Mitchell Barnes (, April 16, 1999.

Sir Daniel of the power company-

I fully accept your wager - based on 99.50% success rate after 96 days (through the first month change-over to Feb, the end of Feb change-over to March, and the end of the first quarter of year 2000.) If Y2K events and fallout from Y2K-induced events are so neglible to allow the power industries to maintain the delivery of safe, reliable stable electric power across the US and Canada, I'll aknowledge the error of my prediction here and on the public stage downtown.

Weather-induced failures, pure mechanical failures that are not directly or indirectly Y2K, internationally-affected or controller-related, and nuclear wars excepted. Prices slightly higher in Alaska and Hawaii, void where prohibited. Your mileage may vary. Tax, title and license not included.

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, April 16, 1999.


the company you're trying to think was probably alliant, in wisconsin & other states.


my understanding is that the quality of y2k work in power plants around the county is uneven; ie, some are really on top of it, some are not doing such great work. at least, so i've been told. i'm not actually out there in the power plants to verify it :)

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (, April 16, 1999.

PG&E preparedness statement, sent out last month, to ALL Northern California customers.

PG&E's Y2K Statement In Latest Bill (& California Energy Links) 000aVy

At least, by including this, they are acknowledging something is a possible Y2K problem.


-- Diane J. Squire (, April 16, 1999.

Dan, can you tell us how much your company has spent on y2k remediation in total for the last 4 years, that is the amount they would list on their SEC 10Q, assuming your company is a publicly held company over 500 shareholders/over $10M in net assets. If not, give approximations if quotes are not possible. Thank you.

-- OR (, April 16, 1999.

Again, there are many responses, I will try to address them all.

The important thing to me is that Mr. Cook has accepted my wager in principle. I am duly impressed. You were the only one to take me up on the bet...let the countdown begin! There do seem to be some details we must work out, as mentioned by Chuck and Mr. Cook. I don't like the idea of 96 days being the window, Robert, because by April of 2000 this forum might not still be up, if Y2K turns out to be a "bust". And to just bet on the first few hours might not do it as well, as Chuck mentioned. I propose three separate wagers: One for six hours before and after the rollover (face it, that's when everyone will be watching and waiting to see what happens). A second bet for the first week in January, to cover when everyone gets back to work. A third bet for January through April 17, to cover leap day 2000 and the fiscal issues you mentioned, Robert. What do you think? Pick which ones you are willing to take the wager on. I like your caveat that the failure must be attributable to Y2k, but I add another exception: If a customer goes out of power because of his own equipment, that doesn't count either (I cannot speak for all industrial and commercial customers).

Again, thanks for taking the challenge, Robert.

Thanks, Sysman, for the link.

Cary: I am not saying that power companies do not need to remediate anything. I'm saying that the work to do is relatively minimal and that as an interconnected grid, we will be able to maintain a safe, reliable electric supply, with minimal outages. However, there are also many non-critical devices being upgraded to make us better able to do business. I'm not saying there will be zero outages, because I can't say that today or any day. I'm not saying electric companies will be compliant, but that the vast majority of them will be Y2K ready by June 30, 1999, and all but very few will be ready by the end of this year. If you want to know whether your company will be ready, contact them. If they can tell you the status of the distributed control systems at power plants and the energy management system for power operations, then they are in good shape. I cannot speak for the fuel chains you speak of, because I don't work in that industry. The ones we've talked to say they have it covered, and have provided detailed plans for how they will be y2k ready.

Art: I don't know who Smith Kline is either...and I don't claim to be an embedded systems expert. My expertise is in making transmission and distribution power systems Y2K ready. Regarding testing of devices, the company should as a minimum be able to tell you that they have (or will be) getting compliance information from their vendors. Most companies that are testing are "type testing", or testing one of each model type. I would not be too concerned if they aren't testing everything, because industry-wide we have yet to find hardly any devices that fail their basic functionality during tests.

Mitchell: Yes, it is true that some power companies are telling people to prepare in one way or another. Our view, as it relates to power, is that Y2k day will not be any different than any other January 1, so there is no compelling reason to make special precautions. However, if you determine that you need a backup generator in case something happens any day, by all means do it. For example, if a loved one relies on power for life support equipment, and a power outage on ANY day could affect their health, then you need a generator NOW, not for Y2K.

And finally my friend Drew: Yes, the quality of work at each power company is different, simply because we all do things a bit differently. However, all of the major power companies do have to report to NERC and meet a basic set of standards for readiness. I can't say that all companies are doing what I think is necessary to be ready, but all the major ones seem to be doing the same kinds of things. Remember, we want to stay in business just as much as you do, and if the meter ain't spinning, we don't get paid.

Take care all....thanks again, Robert...let's work out the details of our wager on another thread or perhaps in e-mail.

Dan the power man.

-- Dan (, April 17, 1999.

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