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Is something being learned now in California that eventually will help other states?

GEHL: Gosh, I think so. I certainly hope so. We're looking at what's wrong with wholesale markets, what's wrong with retail markets, what we can do to develop technologies that would [modernize the grid]. I think there's a tremendous opportunity to learn from the California situation. We have taken to calling what's happened in California "the perfect storm," because all of the various variables lined up in the most adverse configuration. But that isn't to say that parts of the California syndrome won't be experienced in other areas of the country. They very likely will be, and soon.

HURLE: (California Gov.) Gray Davis is no George Clooney. (Laughter.) I think one of the realities of the day, especially one that CIOs have to deal with, is that they have dysfunctional organizations that aren't up to the game, just like the experience of the telecommunications companies of 10, 15 years ago when they were deregulated. You're essentially telling bureaucracies to go and be competitive, and they simply can't do that. They have a whole different set of metrics and cultures—the way they organize their data, the way they manage their processes, the sort of processes and technology that they have deployed internally. They just aren't up to the task. And so today's energy CIOs have this unenviable job of trying to integrate a very high level of expectation about what technology can deliver based on what they read [in magazines], telling them that the Holy Grail is just around the corner and if you put in automated meter reading or if you do wireless this or wireless that—or if you connect your palm pilot and manage your washer and dryer from the office—then everything will be fixed. And that's just simply not the case.

GARDINER: I think it simply brings to light the fact that we're probably at the point where policymakers and those who advocate for the individual consumer need to come together to address a very serious national problem that needs to be solved with a sense of urgency.

MCCREA: I guess I would compare this to Y2K. Look at the Y2K issue, when that problem was in front of all of us. There was a lot of hype, there was a lot of change, and a lot of dollars spent. At the end of the day, people realized, with all the changes that were being made, that nothing would work unless power could be delivered. We've done a major renovation effort in this industry, and IT, from a dollar perspective, will probably outscale anything that we had in numbers associated with the Y2K problem. And as an industry, we have to focus. This is not something that can be done state by state or company by company. It's got to be a global or at least domestic standard effort to ensure we've got the power to take us through the 21st century.

Is there a lesson to be learned from Y2K? Is there a PR effort that's needed here?

ANDERSON: I would love to settle for the capital that was spent on Y2K. That would be a great thing for the transmission grid if we could get that much attention. It's remarkable how much Y2K got for a non-problem.

HURLE: This is a $300 billion marketplace.

ANDERSON: How did Y2K happen? Was it a giant marketing scam or what was it? What was it? I still haven't figured…

MCCREA: It was a scare tactic certainly…

ANDERSON: Started by whom?

MCCREA: …that got everyone's attention.

ANDERSON: Who did it?

HURLE: The software companies?

ANDERSON: Whoever it was, let's sign them up and fix the grid.

This article was originally published on 07-01-2001
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