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Allegheny Energy declared Y2K ready

August 03, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

The nation's electric utility industry, including Allegheny Energy, is Y2K ready, according to a nonprofit industry corporation.

"If New Year's Day 2000 was tomorrow, we believe the lights would remain on in North America," said Michehl R. Gent, president of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).

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More than 99 percent of critical elements in U.S. and Canadian electricity supply systems are ready, according to an announcement Tuesday by the New Jersey-based NERC.

The half-inch-thick report lists 251 firms that are either Y2K ready or Y2K ready with limited exceptions according to NERC standards.

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Allegheny Energy, which has 1.4 million customers, was noted as ready, according to the list.

"We don't foresee any problems and it's our goal to have the lights burning bright when it turns 12:01 a.m. and ringing in the New Year's under bright lights. That's the goal we're comfortable with," said Todd Meyers, an Allegheny Energy spokesman.

NERC spokesman Gene Gorzelnik said Allegheny Energy customers shouldn't fear loss of power due to Y2K since the utility has taken reasonable steps.

Allegheny officials will continue to make sure critical systems are ready up until Jan. 1, Meyers said. Critical systems include those crucial to power generation and distribution and the utility's billing system.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson greeted the NERC report with cautious optimism.

"I'm guardedly optimistic, but more work needs to be done," Richardson said in a prepared statement. "I can't declare total victory yet."

The Department of Energy will continue to push for readiness, spot check some utility audits, help NERC complete a contingency plan and participate in the Sept. 8-9 industrywide drill.

Meyers compared the upcoming drill to a dress rehearsal.

The industry in April held a drill that focused on communications systems, but this one will be broader, he said. Like the previous drill this one will be a simulation - no plants will be shut down.

During the April drill, utility employees learned they needed a formal procedure dictating who gets the priority when it comes to two-way radio traffic since many people were trying to talk at once, Meyers said.

Allegheny had all critical systems Y2K ready by the June 30 deadline set by NERC guidelines, Meyers said.

Many people fear computers and machines with computer chips will fail when 2000 arrives because computers may interpret "00" as 1900 instead of 2000.

Y2K ready means that even if something doesn't work, there are parallel paths or other ways to get a job done, Meyers said.

Meyers said the utility also is working to make noncritical systems such as office copiers and truck scales at the power plants Y2K compliant.

Truck scales are giving accurate weights, but they may not give accurate time stamps so the day and time have to be noted manually, he said.

Allegheny Power expects Y2K readiness to cost the utility $20 million with up to 500 employees working on the project at various times, Meyers said.

Several hundred employees are expected to work during the New Year's holiday weekend in case there is a problem.

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