NERC Not Sweating Y2K
Don't worry. Be happy. Or at least don't fret over electric
power reliability on New Year's Eve 1999. The initial word is in
from the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), and
things don't look as bad as some would have thought.
"NERC describes itself as 'cautiously optimistic' that
electrical systems will be able to sustain reliable operations
through critical Y2K transition periods. That is certainly welcome
news," Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler told attendees at
the Department of Energy-National Association of Regulatory Utility
Commissioners electricity forum, held in Houston in conjunction
with the 17th Congress of the World Energy Council.
"However, we share NERC's view that the industry needs to
accelerate its efforts, particularly in the areas of testing and
remediation of mission-critical systems that could be affected by
Y2K problems. We will continue to monitor the situation closely as
NERC updates its surveys and reports."
On May 1, the DOE asked NERC to coordinate and assess the
electric industry's readiness for Y2K to ensure that steps are
being taken to ensure reliability.
Moler made her remarks before a "small but hearty band of people
interested in things electric." She described her worst-case
scenario for the dawn of 2000: a New York City power failure
occurring in the middle of the fabled descent of the lighted ball
heralding the new year. "My friends at Con Edison - the utility
that serves Times Square - assure me they have thought of this,"
Gerry Cauley, NERC's Y2K coordinator, presented highlights of
the NERC report to the DOE. "We feel the risks are there. They're
real, but the risks are manageable." In its survey of the electric
power industry, the NERC had participation reaching 75%, including
responses from 160 of 200 bulk electric operating entities. Among
areas critical to success of a Y2K transition are project planning
and management, nuclear and non-nuclear generation, and
Much of the work to prepare for 2000 has been completed, but
much remains to be done. NERC recommends accelerating efforts. So
far, about 87% of the inventory of potential problems is completed.
This figure is misleading, Cauley said, as it includes some
entities with very little accomplished, which brings down the
figure for the majority who have more work done. About 65% of
assessment work is completed, and about 28% of work to replace
components or otherwise fix identified problems has been finished.
The inventory is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, and
assessments are expected to be completed by Oct. 31. Testing is to
be finished by May 31, 1999, and implementation is to complete by
the end of June 1999.
The electric power industry has to be concerned not just with
its own systems but with those of the telecommunications,
transportation, and gas transportation industries as well. Reacting
to the NERC report, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) played down
the industry's reliance on computers. "The U.S. electric supply and
delivery systems are not heavily reliant on computers and
electronic controls," EEI said. "Those operations that do rely on
computer systems can be manually operated in emergencies - and
often are during power outages arising from storms or mechanical
Cauley said the operations of power marketers were not examined
as part of the survey. Power marketers could indeed be asked to
suspend some activity during the leap to 2000, he conceded. He said
marketers may be asked to firm up transmission arrangements in
advance of New Year's Eve. "I think an extreme measure would be a
24-hour period without new electronic transactions. That's the
Joe Fisher, Houston