U.S. Rep Prepares A Shock To The Utility System

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Daily News Bliley Prepares A Shock To The Utility System By Robert MacMillan, Newsbytes July 12, 2000

Never one to shirk from taking on preconceived ideas about how the nation is run when it comes to supporting the burgeoning high-tech industry, House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley, R-Va., this Thursday will propose a federally restructured power grid system that he says will increase electrical reliability.

Bliley plans to introduce an amendment to an electricity bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, that would revise the current state-by-state electrical grid regulations to, as one of his aides said, prevent increasing amounts of power outages - especially on the West Coast - caused by the growing IT industry.

The bill is H.R. 2944, the Electricity Competition and Reliability Act.

The move, the aide said, would keep Silicon Valley firms from losing "between $1 million to $10 million per minute when their data centers go down during power outages."

Bliley's amendment specifically would give the Federal Energy Reliability Council the ability to govern the interstate transmission grid, staffers said.

"Already there have been three power outages in Northern California during the past five weeks," the aide said. "If we fail to act, and Congress fails to modernize the grid... the problem... will grow exponentially worse next summer and the summer after that."

Barton is likely to oppose Bliley's amendment, preferring that the current system remain in place. Barton staffers were not immediately available for comment, however.

Bliley staffers said, meanwhile, that the Commerce Committee's scheduled markup of the bill on Thursday "will be among the most important high-tech votes that members of Congress will make this year."

The daily costs of the outages being experienced in Silicon Valley may range from $75 million to $100 million each day, a Commerce Committee Republican fact sheet states.

The Commerce Committee aide also noted that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals already has ruled that FERC should have control of the interstate grid, but added that "what this legislation will do is give that judicial decision the weight of congressional action."

According to some news reports, companies such as Oracle Corp., and Sun Microsystems Inc., have said that they are willing to resort to generating their own private power supplies if they cannot rely on the existing electrical power system to provide consistent electricity flow.

Reported by Newsbytes.com, http://www.newsbytes.com


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 12, 2000

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