LIPA administrators at a board meeting on Wednesday expressed renewed frustration that the computer system problems that plagued the utility after Tropical Storm Isaias may still persist, while criticizing the PSEG for not having sent a manager to the meeting to address their concerns in person.
Administrators were briefed Wednesday on the most recent findings from a LIPA Isaias task force, including “failures” with PSEG’s testing protocols for a newly implemented computer system to handle customer outages. The work has cost $45 million since Isaias, LIPA reported.
LIPA’s report, first reported in Newsday, said it was “difficult to say whether the fault management system is working as it should” after finding that 36% of LIPA’s own tests using the methodology PSEG’s test scripts “have failed to date” due to “inadequate documentation, poorly written test scripts, and scripts that obviously don’t work.
PSEG disputed the report, saying it had “conducted and successfully completed all testing” using “industry best practices under the observation of LIPA” and New York State regulators.
The LIPA tests are a prelude to the full system stress tests that LIPA still needs to perform to make sure PSEG’s newly installed IT system is working after a series of outages during Tropical Storm Isaias, which saw 535,000 customers lose business. electricity for a week.
“It’s just terrifying that we’re two years away and we could have a storm next week and we don’t have a working outage management system,” said the LIPA Vice President, Mark Fisher.
LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone noted that failing the tests doesn’t necessarily mean the system isn’t working. Indeed, PSEG said the new system performed well during recent heat storms that resulted in thousands of outages.
“Well, we don’t know if it’s functional or not,” Falcone said. “We’re not saying it doesn’t work, we’re not saying it works… We don’t know.”
PSEG said LIPA’s testing of the system “did not demonstrate that the system was non-functional, rather that LIPA testers could not run the test scripts without assistance.” PSEG said its tests “have been developed to be run by people with a solid understanding of business processes and outage management system functionality”, and said it will “continue to provide” support, training and support to LIPA and consultants.
Osman Ahmad, a member of the LIPA working group, called PSEG’s explanation “streamlined” and said it’s industry standard to have tests that can be run “independently” by people other than developers.
More frustrating for some directors is that PSEG officials were not present during the full board meeting to answer their questions.
“I note that this is the first board meeting I have attended where no PSEG representative is present,” said administrator Elkan Abramowitz, noting that the LIPA contract requires that PSEG officials are present “if requested”.
“I want that comment to be clear, that we ask for them to be at every board meeting,” Abramowitz said. “We wasted 15 minutes here trying to interpret what they are doing when they could have answered it” directly.
Administrator Sheldon Cohen added, “I think we’re wasting a lot of time, it’s frustrating to listen to this without the other side of the story.” He called it “imperative” that PSEG officials be at “at least every meeting to be accountable for these results.”
Fischl, during a board committee meeting earlier today, raised questions about PSEG’s IT technology staffing levels after PSEG announced it was 4 months lower, $1 million budgeted in 2022 “due to vacancies in information technology and strategic planning and analysis.”
Greg Filipkowski, chief information officer for PSEG Long Island, said the company was “making good progress” in filling many of our vacancies” and added, “While these permanent full-time positions are still open, we are actively recruiting for them. ”
In the meantime, he said, the PSEG was “training [outside] consultation resources” and that “the work was still in progress.
“It’s a tight labor market,” Filipowski explained. “There is a high demand for tech people, we are making good progress, but we are replacing consultants during the period when we are recruiting for these permanent positions.”