ComEd - summer power outages : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

ComEd fines not enough for some

March 10, 2000


SPRINGFIELD--As Commonwealth Edison raises the possibility of more summer power outages, a battle is brewing in Springfield over how accountable the utility should be to customers plunged into darkness.

A plan that passed the Senate would give the Illinois Commerce Commission authority to levy stiffer fines--up to $500,000--against ComEd for failing to comply with ICC orders.

But some watchdogs say the proposed fines amount to "pocket change." They are seeking legislation to force the utility to further compensate consumers for blackouts, an idea ComEd has blocked.

ComEd now has to reimburse consumers for losses tied to outages affecting 30,000 or more customers for four hours or more.

"They have bigger sticks than us little reps," said Rep. Todd Stroger (D-Chicago), lead sponsor of stalled legislation to lower the blackout threshold.

Frank Clark, ComEd senior vice president, maintains that with almost 3 1/2 million customers, ComEd's 30,000 mark is a "very aggressive standard."

-- - (, March 15, 2000


Of course, none of this is Y2K-related!

-- Flash (flash@fllash.hq), March 15, 2000.

Hey "Flash" Here's a flash for you.

How could it be Y2k related if the plants are working now??

Does the Y2k problem only kick in when its hot?

I've read almost every major work on power and Y2k and do not recall that Y2k was a function of temperature. It was "supposed to be" a function of the date but that didn't work out so good for the doom "theorists".

Is this a new theory?? Is there a "Mr. CEO" someplace advancing it?

Chicago had brownouts last year did it not??

So did other areas. Was that y2k or not enough capacity??

-- cpr (, March 15, 2000.


If you live in the Chicago area, the ComEd power problem is a fairly familiar one that has been occurring for many years. ComEd has a lot of old equipment, and things hit a fever pitch last summer (1999) with several brownouts and blackouts due to blown transformers, old switches, etc. One of our companies decided to move from one suburb since we are subject to many short (from 10 seconds to 2 hours) blackouts that caused us to reprogram our machining centers on an almost monthly basis for a good five years.

Residential areas in the far west suburbs such as Wheaton and Naperville are subject to brownouts as well, and they seem to peak in the summertime, when their is high demand. This has been common knowledge for over 10 years. People have been bitching about ComEd for years, but since it practically monopolizes power in the Chicago Metropolitan area, it has little competitive pressure to improve its perfromance. Hopefully, deregulation will change that.

Flash, your smug response belies your thinking, attempting to attribute Y2K to events when there is no connection.

Next time, look before you leap.

-- CJS (, March 15, 2000.

OK guys, I stand corrected. I must admit that aside from a huge number of alarm hits on my UPS units over the last couple of months, it does appear that power has been generally reliable. What about Nigeria, though?

I guess that I'm just over-sensitive because of the large number of Y2K connected data-systems problems that have all been shoved under the rug.

Cheers... Flash

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), March 15, 2000.


Can you give us some examples of the large number of Y2K related data problems that are being shoved under the rug? Apparently I've missed them.

-- Jim Cooke (, March 15, 2000.

Before 1/1/2000 there were reports even on TB I that Nigeria had power outages.........all the time and was "lucky if they had power 10 hours a day".

People who travel to such places and any 3rd world nation know all about lack of power, safe water, sanitary conditions and things we take for granted.

Most forget but when the rest of the world was celebrating, ABC periodically cut to the village of displaced people near the Gulf where everyone was living in tents and water was scarce. They were in the same time zones as Greece and Eygpt but I doubt anyone there celebrated.

The US, some of the Orient and Europe/Israel are lucky that they have dependable sources of power.

Much of the 3rd world has that ........if they have electrical power at all. Phones.....? fuggedabout it. (Wireless will cure a lot of that.)

-- cpr (, March 15, 2000.


Unfortunately, I can't be specific other than to say that I am personally aware of hundreds of problems that have occurred since the early morning of January 1, 2000. I work in Silicon Valley and know a lot of mainframe guys and gals (like myself) and believe me they did happen. Although the volume has tapered off significantly, I fixed one as late as last week. The reason that no one hears about them is a combination of the threat of firing and legal action, coupled with what I believe was the most comprehensive and successful media blackout in recorded history. I and others in similar jobs spent many hundreds of hours, often working through the night and weekends to fix problems and rerun applications in a timely manner. Thanks to the news blackout, the public is blissfully ignorant of what really happened. Fortunately, it appears that most problems were fixed quickly enough so that their effects could successfully be kept from the outside world. It is also fortunate that our electrical and water systems turned out not to be adversely affected in any significant way, unlike what Scary Gary (and others) were predicting.

Although my earlier comment that sparked this discussion was incorrect and inappropriate within the context where it was made, it sprang from the frustration of having my efforts and those of others who worked so hard to assure that Y2K wasn't more serious ignored, denied, and unappreciated.

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), March 15, 2000.


I don't think people are trying to claim otherwise. Nobody ever questioned that there were countless date bugs, or that remediators were genuinely finding and fixing them. Nor was there any real doubt that many would be left to be fixed on failure. Remember that the original "level 1" description was 80 hour weeks for geeks, but little of this escaping to the outside world. And in places where remediation was, uh, less than stellar, that's what we'd expect to see.

But as you say yourself, by now the crunch time is over in all but a very few places, and date bugs as a class are settling down into the usual maintenance noise. Presumably your own experience is being duplicated globally. Cumulative effects never happened even at the peak, which we're far past.

-- Flint (, March 15, 2000.


My last contract in Chicago was for ComEd. We were converting old [VERY old] assembler programs that used flat files to COBOL II [and DB2.] I moved to Texas before the project was complete, but kept in touch with folks there. It seems that their IT department was put in the hands of Arthur Anderson folks, who cancelled the project we almost had completed [because it wouldn't make money for ComEd.] No doubt they had their consultants rewrite it from scratch again. [no skepticism THERE, eh?]

Programmers have always worked behind the scenes, Flash. That's one of the reasons we score so high on that nerdity test. "Ever spend ALL weekend on a computer?" You betcha...just so the USERS wouldn't know stuff broke...forget about the general public. I don't think anyone ever expected praise and adulation from Y2k work, but it sure does my heart good to not see folks saying we'll all be lined up and shot for causing the problem in the first place. [I actually ran into some of those folks on the internet in 1998.] Come to think of it, didn't Yourdon suggest something similar?

[patting Flash on the back] Ya done good, Flash.

-- Anita (notgiving@anymore.thingee), March 15, 2000.

Thanks Anita, and also Flint, Jim, CJS, CPR, et. al.

Although I'm a relative newcomer to the list, being here with you all seems like where the real action is. Most posters are very sharp and I really appreciate the diversity and breadth of information and opinions presented here.

I wish I had found out about you folks a lot earlier. I sometimes sneak a peek at the "new" TB2000 list, but this group is a lot more interesting.

Special Thanks to OTFR for starting and maintaining this forum.

-- Flash (flash@flash.hq), March 15, 2000.

Sorry to jump on you, Flash. By your comment, I just assumed that you were one of those that was searching for Y2K problems in any random event where no evidence pointing to that existed. If that is not the case, I apologize.

-- CJS (, March 15, 2000.


Believe me, I feel your pain :^). I spent most of the last two years working on utility embedded systems. We had many date problems after the CDC but not many more than we've had with every new year. We worked hard, as you did, and fixed them. Most of the time we were more worried about a vice-president getting mad than whether the public found out.

The real issue all along was if there would be system problems that couldn't be fixed and would cause other systems to fail as well. At least in utilities, this hasn't happened. All the work we've done could be said to have been "swept under the rug", so to speak, but hasn't that always been the case, Y2K or no?

-- Jim Cooke (, March 16, 2000.

Flash, I agree that there likely have been many y2k bugs that have gone unreported, I am aware of several leap year bugs that occurred in software in my industry (power), which was a suprise to me. But I doubt that the reason these kinds of problems go unreported is "fear" and "threats", it's far more likely because these problems have been fairly minor and not really worth the "print" .....

Y2K bugs - typically teeny little critters, not sure why the doomsayers saw them as Wooly Mammoths...

-- FactFinder (, March 18, 2000.

The Y2K issue is really just a subset of all time/date related glitches. Last night New Zealand went from Summer Time back to Standard Time, or at 03:00 the clocks were set back to 02:00.

Unfortunately I happen to be the controller on Night Shift at the moment, so I get to see all of these time related errors occurring at once.

Last night the main server on our SCADA crashed when the clock was set back, but within 3 minutes we were running on the backup server. A hydrological data collecting system missed an hours river and rainfall data, but a manual update soon had it correct. One power station received a dispatch instruction an hour earlier than they were expecting, but this turned out to be a human error on the part of the operators at the station. They forgot about the time change when they had prepared their offer for the market.

So these date/time errors are nothing new, they happen quite frequently, but with benign rather than serious consequences.

So just a typical night shift, but with more glitches and errors than we experienced during the CDC rollover.

-- Malcolm Taylor (, March 18, 2000.

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