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Special Report

Fortnightly Magazine - September 15 1999

a few small utilities, he said, have local generation to cover the demand forecasted for New Year's Eve 2000.

Glauthier said that a second round of "spot check" audits might be conducted in the fall if funding is available. But because Y2K-readiness information is so dispersed and there are so many small utilities, some NERC workshop attendees were pessimistic that the DOE can compile an accurate list of non-compliant utilities before the end of the year.

"There are some commercial utility databases that do not contain the names of all utilities in the United States," said one energy executive, describing the DOE's formidable task.

"It is a challenge to get all these systems identified," Glauthier admitted. "We will be working with organizations such as NERC and their members, who are the largest systems. In the case of municipals, we will be dealing with associations such as the American Public Power Association. We are not, at this point, going out to each state to identify each utility in each state. We rather focus on the compliance issues themselves."

In addition, the DOE will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and NRECA to identify cooperatives that are not Y2K-ready.

Intel: At First Wary, But Now At Ease

Beyond verification of utilities' preparedness for Y2K, many electricity customers at the conference wanted to know what power restrictions and contingency plans utilities will use in the event of a systems accident at rollover time. Other customers were concerned about nuclear power plants that had reported being "Y2K-ready with limited exception."

"What does it mean to have a limited exception?" asked one Pepsi representative.

NERC responded that the Y2K exceptions to nuclear power plants pose no risk to safety and will not affect critical systems.

A spokesman for computer chip manufacturer Intel Corp. said that the utilities' willingness to provide information on their readiness for Y2K bolstered Intel's confidence in the power industry's ability to prevent potential interruptions. Yet Intel only recently became confident in the industry, he said.

Indeed, Intel's Y2K disclosure on Form 10-Q, filed Aug. 2, 1999, revealed that the company's greatest Y2K concerns relate to third-party systems problems, rather than internal systems or its products.

"Because we have less control over assessing and remediating the year 2000 problems of third parties, we believe the risks are greatest with infrastructure (e.g., electricity supply and water and sewer service), telecommunications, transportation supply channels and critical suppliers of materials and services," said the Y2K disclosure form.

But the Intel spokesman said the company's fears have been allayed. "Several months ago, utilities weren't even interested in meeting with us. If they would have maintained the same attitude, we would have gone out shopping for generators until utilities came back to the table," he said.

Intel remains concerned about the power supply outside of the United States, he said. The company now feels comfortable that its manufacturing plants in U.S. locations including New Mexico, California, Oregon and Massachusetts will be provided uninterrupted electricity through the rollover, however.

As a show of its faith, Intel has not added