For Immediate Release
April 9, 1999
At the start of today's nationwide drill testing the reliability of the country's electric systems, Pepco reported 90 percent of its critical systems are Y2K ready. "We're on schedule to complete our system upgrades and testing by our goal of June 30," said Ken Cohn, Pepco's General Manager of Computer Services. "Today's test has validated the soundness of our Y2K preparations and contingency planning."
Noting the company has been working on the Year 2000 problem since 1995, Cohn said, "We haven't found anything yet in all of our work that can't be corrected. Pepco is committed to providing its customers with safe and reliable service."
The Y2K problem refers to the inability of some computers and software programs to distinguish 1900 from the year 2000. The concern is that this could cause programs and systems that use dates to malfunction or shut down.
Cohn heads a corporate-wide task force that expects to spend more than $12 million to identify all computer systems, embedded systems and operations that could be affected by the Y2K problem. Various teams of Pepco employees and consultants developed and installed appropriate changes to "debug" the systems, and performed tests to determine whether the corrective measures worked. Pepco also has been developing contingency plans if needed to continue to provide energy to its customers.
Pepco's mainframe computer and internal data communications network have been upgraded and tested and are Y2K ready. The customer service and "outage trouble processing" systems also were upgraded, tested and determined to be Year 2000 ready.
Remaining Year 2000 upgrades to Pepco's power plants, electric transmission and distribution systems, substations and control centers are on schedule and will be completed and tested by June 30.
Because of the interconnected electric system east of the Rocky Mountains and the effect that the interconnected systems have on each other, Y2K planning extended beyond Pepco and includes coordination with the mid-Atlantic regional PJM power pool to which Pepco is connected.
Today's drill, the first of two nationwide scheduled before Jan. 1, 2000, was part of Y2K contingency plan testing by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), an organization that helps maintain regional electric service reliability. The drill simulated the loss of voice and data communications between Pepco's power control center and electronic field measurement and control devices and the PJM control center in Valley Forge, Pa.
Power plant and transmission system operators depend on telephone, fiber-optic lines and microwave transmitters to get continuous readouts of each others' power generation levels, demand for electricity and other data to maintain control and reliability of the interconnected utility high-voltage transmission systems. Communication is especially important during times of high demand, severe weather or if power plants are disabled.
The automatic protective and safety equipment for the transmission system is largely electro-mechanical and not dependent on computers. For the drill with loss of communications simulated, Pepco personnel were pre-positioned at key points in the transmission system-as they will be at midnight Dec. 31-to manually read the meters and communicate the in formation to the control center using voice radios as communication back-ups. Satellite phones not dependent on land-line communication will be used New Year's Eve in the e vent of a disruption to the public telephone system to communicate with the PJM control center and PJM-utility control centers.
In addition to today's drill, Pepco simulated lost electric generation data from two of its power plants and company-to-company transmission data from Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., using field personnel with voice radios as backups. Pepco also tested radio communications with the 911- Emergency Operations Centers in the District of Columbia, and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, with which it routinely communicates by telephone during abnormal conditions such as in a major power failure or weather emergency.
"We have developed contingency plans for just about anything that could possibly be infected by the Y2K bug, " Cohn said. "While we don't anticipate significant problems on New Year's Day, we always have contingency plans in place to recover from outages and we have applied that strategy to Y2K."
Point of Contact:Robert A. Dobkin