Why are electric companies sending out PR Reps that say . . .

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I attended a Town Meeting in Montgomery County, Maryland, yesterday. Monkey County calls itself "the best prepared county for Y2K on Earth". They explained about all the 42 million dollars they've spent preparing, and also that they had generators for the high schools and would put people up in shelters if necessary. They handed out citizen preparation pamphlets telling everyone to get ready for a "winter storm". Five days, max. BUT, actually they don't really expect anything to happen. This is just contingency planning.

Then they had the reps from the utility companies speak. PEPCO rep said the probability of losing power from Y2K was NIL. Maybe there would be an ice storm that day, but Y2K would NOT be the reason power went down. She said they had removed and replaced EVERY embedded chip in their system, by serial number and tracking the design back to the manufacturer, and run extensive end to end tests, and they were all finished in June of 1999. But just to make sure the public didn't accidentally think a normal, business as usual power outage was due to Y2K, they were going to put 25 teams stationed around the county in case any traffic accidents knocked down an electric pole so it could be put back really fast and no one would panic, thinking Y2K had happened.

She said there is almost NO dependence in the electric power system on embedded chips and electronic systems. It's 96 % electro-mechanical, and all the rest they could do manually.

She said all of this with the conviction-style of Ronald Reagan. Whether it was true or not, SHE believed it. HER family wasn't even boing to buy a generator or stock up on canned foods.

My question is: a) Why would the electric company send out PR reps to say this stuff if it isn't true?

b) Is it true?

-- Alice Brown (alicebrown@yahoo.com), December 12, 1999



My Dad works for the post office. When he takes a report to his supervisor, his supervisor will send him back time and time again if the accurate info/data on the report is not "politically correct" for their corporate agenda. After my Dad "adjusts", his supervisor presents the report to HIS supervisor, who "adjusts" the data, and so on and so on... I could not tell you the number of times I've heard reports on specific equipment or performances, and asked my Dad about the credibility of the report, to find out that the truth is quite different.

If you are an executive who purchased 10 million dollars of equipment that DOES NOT WORK then you sure as hell are gonna throw your weight around to minimize the odds of your error getting to the BIG boss, or the press (or your pr staff!).... that is one of the games uppermanagement has perfected.

Add to this the ignorance of each person in the chain of command. I think ignorance about a report grows exponentially the further removed you are from the source. What would an exec know about the specific equipment my Dad works on? Nothing.

Factor in motivators such as the desire to keep your job, to look good for your boss, to perform despite inadequate budgets, ________ (fill in the blank).

It is not unusual for businesses to kill the messenger, I mean fire the whistle blower. Look at the alleged testimony of Mr. CEO who reported his staff was being let go because they were generating a paper trail of faulty equipment, and the utility companies thought this papertrail would point the judge's finger right back to them if their were any liability suits post y2k...

-- Hokie (nn@va.com), December 12, 1999.

Alice, Although I can not speak for your power company, for most generators the 96% electro-mechanical or non-digital electronic (ie analogue) would be fairly close.

And yes, in hydro or fossil fueled plant, most operations canbe performed manually. I'm not sure about nuke plant though.

The transmission and distribution systems are both very easy to run manually.

Where computerisation does have a large part to play, and hence can have Y2K issues, is in the MMI control equipment such as SCADA (including EMS, DCS, AGC etc), and that is why these items are usually the first to be tested and upgraded or replaced.

-- Malcolm taylor (taylorm@es.co.nz), December 12, 1999.

Can't have panicky people hoarding electricity, now can we?

-- Not Whistlin' Dixie (not_whistlin_dixie@yahoo.com), December 12, 1999.

haaaahaaaaaaaaa.....alice thanks for the good laugh this am. from what i can see, PEPCO CAN'T EVEN KEEP EVERYTHING ON ON GOOD DAYS LET ALONE DURING Y2K. you poor folks in MD (especially Rockville) are always having power outages. i also like their high confidence level- -aren't they the folks that instituted a computerized outage system (i wonder if they are counting this as their y2k remediation work?) and a generator program this year?

-- tt (cuddluppy@nowhere.com), December 12, 1999.

>Is this true

Take your local lineman to lunch. He will know, and he very likely will tell you.

-- cgbg jr (cgbgjr@webtv.net), December 12, 1999.

No oil, no train, no coal, no power.

-- goldbug (goldbug@mint.com), December 12, 1999.


I don't know whether or not PEPCO will be as forcoming with information as my utility company but it doesn't hurt to send them an email at "Y2K@pepco.com" and ask then questions. I have been able to determine from my conservation exchanges that not all embedded device are being tested despite what the official y2k line may be. SO send them an email and hopefully you will find out more..

-- y2k dave (xsdaa111@hotmail.com), December 12, 1999.

"My Dad works for the post office. When he takes a report to his supervisor, his supervisor will send him back time and time again if the accurate info/data on the report is not "politically correct" for their corporate agenda" ----------------------------------------------------------------------

Hokie, I and about a dozen members of my family, work for the post office. Where does your father work that his supervisor even accepts a report from him in the first place? Every postal supervisor I know of could be bludgeoned about the head and shoulders with a live tuna and still wouldn't smell fish.

-- MegaMe (CWHale67@aol.com), December 12, 1999.


Not Whistlin' Dixie has a good point. I do not beleive your question is really relevant. The important question is 'Why are the utlities sending so many snooze messages?'

Look, the banks might have a reason to send snooze messages because they are partially dependent upon perception to stay afloat. If some people think the bank computers may not work, then they may withdraw money from the banking system. This action would crash the banks. So, banks keep us numbed-up with soothing messages to give a (false?) perception that all is OK.

Utilities have no such problem. You cannot 'withdraw' all your electricity from a utility and cause them to fail. Indeed, their success or failure will be totally independent of your perceptions. So, again, why are they so interested in propagating this polly spin?


-- Uhhmm... (JFCP81A@aol.com), December 12, 1999.


You might, as a thought experiment, consider both sides here (I certainly don't have a crystal ball, of course).

1) Utilities are in bad shape, and power will be out everywhere, yet the utilities are busy claiming otherwise. Result -- people don't prepare properly, get taken by surprise, and suffer. Benefit to the utilities -- nil. Danger to the utilities -- lawsuits at least, lynchings at worst.

2) Utilities are in good shape, and there will be few to no y2k- induced power outages, and the reps are telling the truth. Result -- fewer people screw up trying to hook up home generators, or blow themselves up with propane, or spend nonrecoverable money on ill- aimed preparations. Benefit to the people -- fewer losses, injuries or deaths. Benefit to the utilities -- reduced danger of a sudden massive loss of load, reduced expenses defending against people claiming to have been poorly informed. Danger to the utilities - nil.

Now, which sounds more reasonable to you?

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 12, 1999.

Or... The utilities are in bad shape ... know that there is nothing they can do, but don't want people buying generators at Meijer and installing the units themselves, which will result in all manner of problems.

American Electric Power in Columbus, OH has recently spent megabucks sending around this three-color snooze blurb about why we don't have to install generators, but if we want to, here's what not to do...

-- (ladybuckeye_59@yahoo.com), December 12, 1999.

You forgot Door Number 3)

3) Utilities issue artfully crafted releases, intended to say one thing, but sound like they're saying another.

Remember the 'fissul media coverage a few years back about how Early Bill Clinton had a habit of saying something to get the crowd to go with him, then, when he appeared to do a 180 on them -- and got called on the carpet for "going back on his word", his response was along the lines of, "well, if you go back and check my EXACT WORDS, you'll see that what you THINK that I said isn't EXACTLY what I said; and if you do read my EXACT WORDS, you'll see that I haven't contradicted myself at all."

I have read utility statements *rife* with potential for such clitonix. If it was 25 years ago, we'd call it "plausible deniability", but now that I think about it, I guess I don't find it that plausible after all.

-- Ron Schwarz (rs@clubvb.com.delete.this), December 12, 1999.

P.S. Do not take Flint to lunch!

-- cgbg jr (cgbgjr@webtv.net), December 12, 1999.


You have confused *whether* they're lying, with *how*. Many on this forum have exhibited remarkable imagination trying to turn good news into bad news -- everything from outright lying to carefully worded weaseling to plausible deniability to conspiracies to ignorance/incompetence, hell, *anything* rather than consider the possibility such statements might be basically accurate.

When utilities have a whole lot more to lose than to gain by claiming they're OK, I guess we need to add universal stupidity to the list. After all, it's not like you can go across the street to the competition for your power.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 12, 1999.

I agree with Flint so far as he goes, but there are other possibilities. Truly, the utilities would seem to have little or no incentive to lie if they know for certain that things are bad. Also, it is difficult for most people, including me, to believe in conspiracies involving more than a few people, for leaks become unavoidable at some point.

What I'm more concerned about is that many utilities may have ten thousand LITTLE things at risk about which any optimist, including me, could honestly hold plenty of hope. A failure rate of 0.5% may give you a wildly different probability of system failure than a rate of 0.9% when you plug it into the formula. Since we've all heard reports of embedded consultants who find higher failure rates than their clients found (yes I know they charge for their services, and may even WANT to find problems, God forbid), there may be reason to believe that many utilities simply don't know. No conspiracy theory required here.

-- Bill Byars (billbyars@softwaresmith.com), December 12, 1999.

Flint, Assuming that the utilities have no reason to lie, assumes they operate totally disconnected from the rest of the infrastructure.

Now I'm not exactly known as a card carrying NWOist, but I do believe that the banking industry weilds an unhealthy share of power, in the world. If the utilities admit they will have serious problems next year, it's going to lead to incresed speculations about total meltdown, which is going to lead to a larger share of the population yanking their cash. The banks clearly do not want that, and will exert whatever pressure they can, to keep that from happening.

Mind you, I'm not talking conspiracy, with a capital "C" here. Just a lot of scared banking execs wanting to cover their asses.....which I suppose is a moot point, though, since the net effect is the same.

-- Bokonon (bok0non@my-Deja.com), December 12, 1999.


Yes, I admit I'm applying Occam's Razor. As you get increasingly far- fetched (like bankers putting pressure on utilities, etc.) of course you can build a hypothetical case for anything you like. But too many on this forum are like the hypochondriac who goes from one doctor to another until he gets to one who "finds" a problem, and that's the only one he believes.

I'm just looking for an explanation that's most consistent with most of our information. And whether people here are willing to face it or not, only a tiny minority of our information about utilities is "bad", and that consists almost entirely of speculations by those with a clear vested interest in finding problems (and selling solutions to them).

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 12, 1999.


If your electric utility, along with many others, admitted to a high probability that they would not be able to provide power for several days (or more), would you leave your money in the bank and the stock market?

-- Michael (mhgentry@prodigy.net), December 12, 1999.


IF that were true (which it is not -- why all these hypothetical questions? Reality not cooperating with you?), then I'd have enough money to last for a couple of weeks. I'd leave any money I had in the market alone, I think (I don't have any money in the market).

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), December 12, 1999.

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