IBEW Says Service Reliability Ignored

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) told the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that the reliability of electric service under deregulation too often is ignored.

Jack McNally, business manager of IBEW Local 1245, Walnut Creek, California, spoke at the DOE workshop, Power Outage Study Team (POST), which is studying the reliability after reviewing power outages in five U.S. cities in the summer of 1999.

Reliability has been overlooked in the restructuring process, McNally says. For example, California was prepared to pass a restructuring law in 1996 that "virtually ignored" reliability issues. "It was labor who insisted that language be inserted into the law assuring adequate supplies of electric generation," McNally says. He warns that reliable service will remain "subordinated to the economic interests of various other market players."

McNally noted historic levels of electricity supply and service cannot be sustained without investment in maintenance and infrastructure, adequate staffing levels for emergencies and staff training. In each of those areas, he noted how few incentives the newly structured companies had to pursue those essentials.

McNally also noted that the POST report mentioned delays and other factors in the 1999 outages four times, and said all four "were probably a manpower problem" by some other name. He said employer filings show that between 1990 and 1998, the work force at major U.S. investor-owned utilities shrunk by 127,507 employees

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