Y2K: Power Outages Possible

Harvey Newstrom (newstrom@newstaffinc.com)
Sat, 6 Mar 1999 17:12:54 -0500

I have seen a lot of skepticism about the Y2K bug on this list, particularly toward the possibility of the US power grid failures. Apparently my local power company believes that Y2K power failures will definitely happen if they don't replace 15% of their electrical devices, and may still occur anyway.

_Florida_Today_, March 4 1999
"Utilities fear power outages possible Jan. 1"
(Reproduced without permission)

Associated Press
Ft. Lauderdale--No matter what supermarkets, nursing homes, bank machines and other businesses do to prepare for the Year 2000 computer bug, that could all be for naught without electricity.

"Electricity is fundamental to just about everything we do," said Gene
Gorzelnik, spokesman for the North American Electric Reliability Council, an industry association that has taken responsibility for getting the nation's electric utilities ready for the Year 2000. "We want to make sure that the electricity is available."

Florida utilities have been scrambling to be ready for the new millennium, making preparations so their power plants don't go haywire as the date changes from 1999 to 2000.

Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest electric utility has budgeted $50 million for its Y2K program. That program included inspecting 5,000 types of electric devices, about 15 percent of which needed to be replaced or upgraded.

"We're confident that we will have done absolutely everything we could have
done to be ready for the turn of the century," said Nancy Brock, project director for Year 2000 readiness at FPL. "We do believe it's manageable."

However, there's no guarantee there won't be an outage come Jan. 1

"It's possible. On any given day it's possible," Brock said. "There's
always the chance that something could have been missed."

The Florida Reliability Coordinating Council, and industry association that coordinates the transmission and distribution of power in the state, has drafted contingency plans for the turnover.

Power companies have been testing individual pieces of equipment or systems in isolation, but haven't had the chance to test the entire network at once. They will get that chance April 9 and Sept. 9.

Despite all the repairs and upgrades, other factors could influence utilities' ability to deliver power Jan. 1.

Perhaps the biggest concern is a potential for a cold snap, when power usage spikes as people turn on their heaters. Even under normal conditions that can trigger scattered outages.

Other scenarios the reliability council is looking at include disruption of telecommunications, control systems or the fuel supply, any of which could make running a power plant very difficult.

But there is an upside.

Jan. 1 falls on a Saturday, when many businesses are closed and power demand is less than on a weekday.

Also, some utilities have based their Y2K plans on hurricane preparedness, which is familiar to many Florida businesses.

Harvey Newstrom  <http://newstaffinc.com>
Author, Consultant, Engineer, Hacker, Researcher, Scientist.