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Allegheny Power says its ready for Y2K

December 28, 1999|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Y2K won't come as a shock to the Tri-State area's largest electric provider.

Allegheny Power has spent a decade preparing for potential Year 2000 computer problems, which could cause computers to malfunction if they interpret 2000 as 1900.

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Utility officials said they are confident power customers won't be in the dark on Jan. 1.

"We are very focused on providing reliable electrical service to our customers. Our goal is to produce and deliver power without interruption as we transition into the New Year and beyond," said company spokeswoman Debbie Beck.

"At this point, we have tested all our mission-critical systems," Beck said.

Y2K compliance is critical for energy providers such as Allegheny Power, which provides electricity to 1.4 million customers in parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia, she said.

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The Allegheny Energy company has devoted generous resources to addressing the Y2K issue, utility officials said.

The utility has spent about $20 million and 500 employees have invested 80,000 hours to make sure the thousands of computer components vulnerable to the millennium bug are Y2K compliant, company officials said.

More than 20 Allegheny Power Y2K teams have addressed the estimated 70,000 vulnerable computer components, and the utility has passed two industrywide Year 2000 drills, company officials said.

All systems that affect customers have been certified since June, when the company met the North American Electric Reliability Council's Year 2000 guidelines for having Y2K ready all computer hardware and software involved in the generation or distribution of electricity, Beck said.

Allegheny Power has coordinated Y2K activities with state regulators and other utilities, and has worked with key suppliers and vendors to ensure continued provision of services and supplies, company officials said.

The utility company has also kept officials at Hagerstown City Light and the Town of Williamsport, both of which buy power from Allegheny Energy, informed of the company's Y2K readiness, Beck said.

"We feel that we are definitely ready for the first of the year," said City Light Department Manager Terry Weaver, chairman of Hagerstown's Y2K oversight committee.

Hagerstown City Light began looking into potential Year 2000 problems in mid-1998 and "found nothing short of a few computers that needed some upgrading," Weaver said.

The city's five power substations are mostly mechanical, he said.

Still, eight to 10 city electric employees will begin checking the substations at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31 and take their posts within the stations as the New Year nears, Weaver said.

The stations are normally unstaffed in the evening, he said.

About 1,200 Allegheny Power employees - a jump from the average night shift staffing of 75 on-site workers and numerous additional on-call employees - will staff such key locations as power stations and service centers on New Year's Eve night, Beck said.

The extra personnel doesn't reflect doubt about the company's Y2K readiness. It shows the utility's dedication to preparedness, Beck said.

"It's simply another step that we're taking to ensure that we're there if we need to be. In our business, outages can and do occur any time," she said.

Non-Y2K culprits such as automobile accidents and storms can knock out utility poles and interrupt power, Beck said.

If there is an interruption, customers should call 1-800-255-3443.

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