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1998-02-27 07:50:57


The Industry Won't Make It, Says Industry Watchdog



Rick Cowles has become the point man on reporting y2k conditions in the electric power industry. I wish there were someone like him for every category on my site . . . and categories not on my site.

Cowles' sample indicates that America's power plants have not yet completed the inventory phase. According to the California White Paper, awareness is 1%; inventory is 1%. When the inventory is completed, they must begin assessment (5%). After assessment, the recoding can begin in earnest. Then comes testing (40%). This means that most power generation plants have over 98% of the job ahead of them.

If most of them don't make it -- and possibly as few as three or four regions -- the power grid will go down. It will overload. Then what? Can the grid be brought back up? Can a grid overload take down other regions? The survival of Western civilization hangs on the answers to these questions, which nobody is asking in public.

If other nations are behind ours in y2k awareness, which seems likely, then the world will lose its electrical power. If national power grids stay down, the world goes back to 1850, but without the skills and tools appropriate for 1850, and with a vastly larger population.

Pray that Cowles' sample is not representative. Plan on the assumption that it is.

This is posted on Westergaard's site.

* * * * * * * *

Most electric utilities are still, for the most part, in the awareness / inventory stage of Y2k. Some are actually still fighting about "how to conduct inventory". There is very little upper management appreciation of the depth of the Y2k issue. That lack of appreciation translates into a significant deficit of executive level support (resources and funding) for any Y2k projects. Y2k program managers are frustrated at their inability to convince their local or executive management that Y2k is, indeed, an enterprise threatening problem. There is a sense of urgency at the Y2k program management level that is approaching panic, but the support is still not materializing.

Executive management does not understand or appreciate their personal exposure on this thing. That is the only parameter that will ultimately get their attention -- when the corporate officers start to understand the personal legal implications, maybe the support will be forthcoming (note that I'm not a lawyer, and don't play one on TV). However, I feel it's all but too late for that understanding, even if it occured today, to make a significant impact on any Y2k projects, not just in the electric industry.

Not one electric company has started a serious remediation effort on its embedded controls. Not one. Yes, there's been some testing going on, and a few pilot projects here and there, but for the most part it is still business-as-usual, as if there were 97 months to go, not 97 weeks.

Almost all electric utility projects are severely understaffed. I was at an independent generating company this week, which is responsible for production of nearly 3000 megawatts between just two large generating plants. This company still doesn't have a single full-time person dedicated to Y2k, and this includes the project manager. This is a USD $5 billion operation, and their management has committed only a few hundred thousand dollars of 'seed money' to the project. I sincerely feel sympathy for the Y2k project manager. . . .

Oh, one other thing. Contingency planning? The industry hasn't started thinking about it yet.

So, there ya go. That's where things stand now.

Here's my main message -- the electric industry doesn't have the time left to lick this thing. It's not that the resources or ability aren't there; it's that the corporate will and and executive level understanding of the issue do not seem to be there. . . .

And finally, for those of you who still think, "Oh, there's two years left, they'll get enough stuff fixed so at least a modicum of power can stay on...", consider the following, which is an update of my own personal take on how much time remains to fix the Y2k problems or plan for contingencies:

678 days (as of 28 Feb, 1998).

- 30 (2 weeks vacation per year - 30 days between 1998 and 1999.)

- 24 (Holidays)

- 194 (Saturdays/Sundays)

- 60 (non-productive workdays; holiday seasons, 1998 and 1999) ____ 370 workdays left till Y2K


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