We are the world's experts on contingencies," boasted Michehl Ghent, president of the North American Electric Reliability Council, appearing in Houston on Sept. 17 at the Sixth Annual DOE/NARUC Electricity Forum. It was the very day day that NERC released its first comprehensive report on readiness in the electric utility industry in correcting computer software problems associated with the dawning the next century, which for the first time will require computers, software programs and embedded chips to the use four digits to identify the year beginning with turnover from 1999 to 2000.
Ghent's comments set the tone for what could promise to be an aggressive effort by NERC in leading the Electric Sector Working Group in its voluntary effort toward Y2K compliance, well befitting the reputation of NERC engineers as a no-nonsense bunch.
"NERC has 30 years' experience in getting people to participate voluntarily," added Gerry Cauley, NERC's Year 2000 coordinator. "We're not bashful. In further reports we will disclose the names of those who participate in the Y2K process. You'll be able to see who is not participating by a process of elimination."
The contrast could not have been more obvious when on the very next day, at a technical conference held in Washington, D.C., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission appeared to treat its advisory role as leader of the Oil and Gas Sector Working Group in much softer terms. There it was FERC chairman James Hoecker who chose to leave the three-hour conference after delivering a only fifteen-minute talk. He turned the podium to John Koskenin, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and to Katie Hirning, the FERC's chief information officer.