Southern Company, the nations No. 1 producer of electricity and an industry leader in addressing year 2000 challenges, announced today that it is prepared to make the transition into the new millennium. The companys systems that are critical to keeping the lights on for its customers in North America are year 2000 ready.
The efforts of Southern Company affiliates to prepare for the year 2000 include rigorous testing of critical systems. As a part of these tests, computer clocks at some of the companys power plants have been set ahead and are currently operating with year 2000 dates. No service interruptions occurred when those systems transitioned through New Years Eve and other key dates.
Based on these tests and additional testing of critical systems, we believe service interruptions related to year 2000 challenges are unlikely, said Mike McClure, head of Southern Companys Millennium Project, which is addressing the year 2000 computer challenge across the company. If they occur, we believe service interruptions will be isolated and short in duration, similar to a storm.
Southern Company has met or exceeded industry year 2000 readiness guidelines established by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). A not-for-profit industry group, NERC and its 10 regional reliability councils focus on the reliability and security of the interconnected electric transmission systems across North America.
With todays announcement, Southern Company considers its systems critical to generating and delivering electric power to customers served by its North American operations to be year 2000 ready. One generating unit, which represents approximately 2 percent of the companys generating capacity, will undergo a year 2000 upgrade during a routine maintenance period this Fall. The unit, Plant Farley Unit 2, will undergo a turbine control system upgrade similar to the upgrade successfully performed on Plant Farley Unit 1 last year.
This significant milestone is the result of a companywide effort that began in 1996 when we formed the Millennium Project to address the year 2000 challenge, said McClure. Our commitment to being prepared for the year 2000 begins with senior management and includes the teamwork of hundreds of business experts throughout the company. Through this coordinated effort, which represents an investment of approximately $90 million, weve continually been working toward the goal of providing customers in our service territory with the same safe, reliable service they have today during the transition to the year 2000 and beyond.
During the transition to the year 2000, Southern Company affiliates will have employees on duty to anticipate and respond to any potential challenges. Also, Southern Company plans to have reserve power available during the transition period.
Traditionally, the New Years transition is a period of relatively low electricity demand within Southern Companys service area, said Bill Newman, senior vice president of transmission planning and operations. We plan to have 40 to 50 percent more generating capacity available than the anticipated demand during the transition.
In addition to its own preparations for the year 2000, Southern Company is cooperating with industry regulators and other utilities to manage potential issues affecting the stability of the nations integrated electric network, the power grid. Southern Company also has ongoing communication with key suppliers, such as fuel and telecommunication providers, to assess their readiness to supply products and services into the year 2000 and beyond.
Southern Companys Millennium Project will stay intact well into the year 2000 to further manage and monitor the companys critical systems. We will continue to address potential challenges and focus on providing reliable electric service for our customers into the new millennium, said McClure.
Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is an international energy company with more than $35 billion in assets through regional utilities and operations around the world. It is the largest producer of electricity in the United States and one of the worlds leading independent power producers. Based in Atlanta, Southern Company is the parent firm of Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power, Mississippi Power and Savannah Electric. Through its Southern Energy Inc. subsidiary, Southern Company supplies electricity in 10 countries on four continents and has a growing presence in North America with assets in the Northeast, the Midwest, California and Texas. Southern Company also provides energy-related marketing, trading and technical services in the United States and Europe and offers Southern LINC wireless telecommunications.