This information comes from an anonymous souce named George. Roleigh Martin provides the story.
The message: management's goal is not to save the utility; it is to save managers from lawyers. Management will spend only enough to keep the lawyers at bay -- "due diligence" rather than repaired utilities.
The question here is sanctions: electrical vs. legal. These people are more afraid of lawyers than they are of the collapse of the power grid. But if the power grid collapses, there will be 750,000 unemployed lawyers in the United States, many of whom will starve to death.
My conclusion: the Year 2000 crisis isn't all bad.
This appears on Westergaard's site.
* * * * * * *
George wrote about a November 1997 state utilities meeting with a senior executive of a leading engineering firm involved in the utility industry and a senior researcher on the embedded systems problem who is affiliated with an industry group. . . .
"Those who have not yet recognized the embedded systems problems are already too late. It was said to take about 21 months to make one power generation plant Year 2000 compliant. 'The only thing we can be certain about the Year 2000 is that we won't be able to catch everything.' (Speaker with the State Public Power District who opened the meeting) The opinion was expressed that complete Year 2000 remediation for a number of utilities is an insurmountable task; therefore, they should just attempt to make the steps necessary to prove due diligence in the court of law."
"It was apparent from the meeting that the majority of the electric utilities had little to no idea about the extent of their embedded systems problem. The $30-40 million figure to upgrade one typical power plant was given by the expert engineer who attended and spoke at the meeting. . . .
"The idea that complete remediation would not be possible was a strong theme in the expert engineer's presentation. In fact proving 'due diligence' was named as a major driver for participating in the proposed solution program. . . .
"New HVAC machines (as well as others) do not always contain manual override for 'on' position. Work-arounds are impossible without costly replacement. Lead-time on replacement of such machines is already over one year and increasing." [An HVAC is a heating/ventilation/ air-conditioning system. Without HVACs working, rooms containing electronic sensors and heat-sensitive data processing equipment can overheat and start malfunctioning.]
"In a private phone conversation with the expert engineer, he expressed the opinion that a 30% outage is not out of the realm of reality. If thirty percent of the nation's grid goes, the rest may go as well. That is a reason that the few and far between plants who are ready (or at least closer to being ready) for the Year 2000 are considering isolation. That is not exactly an easy task. . . .
"Every firm, of which I am aware, offering Year 2000 embedded systems remediation does not perform testing to a high enough degree... [One firm] tests only at the component level in embedded systems, and then only at the hardware/functioning software level. This leaves huge holes in their testing. . . .
"I do not plan to be anywhere near a big (or medium) city when the Year 2000 hits. There is just too much that could go wrong."