PSEG Long Island last weekend conducted a closely watched test of its storm-outage management and communications systems and it said the results were "positive," but a LIPA official said issues remain.
Cascading failures with the outage management system were central to PSEG's widely criticized response to Tropical Storm Isaias in August, leading LIPA and the state to launch investigations that found the outage-management system had not been properly functioning for weeks or longer before the storm. PSEG, the grid operator for LIPA, had installed a new version of the system last summer, and found that version didn’t work right. PSEG in the intervening months has reverted to an older version of the system, with bug fixes, but also plans to reintroduce the new computer system with new hardware as soon as this summer.
"The preliminary results of this weekend’s end-to-end test of our outage management and telephony systems were positive," spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said, of the test that had been scheduled on several prior occasions but scrapped due to problems. "We are in the process of evaluating the full results and will be sharing them with LIPA." PSEG didn't elaborate the results.
LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone in an interview on Monday said while there was "definitely progress" reported by PSEG during the storm test, he also noted there were "still some issues."
"We need to get their report" from the test "which we have not gotten yet," he said. "When they are ready to say the system passed we need to do independent verification."
Chauvin said, "We are in the process of completing our internal review and while LIPA observed the tests, we expect to send all test data to LIPA by the end of the week."
The next test will be of the upgraded version of the outage management system, called version 6.7. Chauvin did not say when the test will take place, but stressed, "The new version will not go into production until it has been thoroughly tested and when the timing is appropriate."
One PSEG critic called it "obviously troubling" to hear the systems are not fully ready. "While some progress is decent news, decent won't cut it when a big storm hits," said State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). "We're a few months away from being in hurricane season and it's imperative the outage-management system be ready to deal with every possible situation."
Chauvin of PSEG said, "Our systems are ready for storm season."
Kaminsky said he wants "real testing" of the system during prime time hours and "independent verification to know these systems work. Relying on anyone's word for it would be a mistake."
Failure of the computer and communication system crippled PSEG’s response to the storm, which caused more than 645,000 outages and more than 1 million dropped phone calls and lost texts. Customers for days were given incorrect restoration times or none at all, and many trucks sent to sites to begin a restoration found there was no restoration needed.
LIPA trustees have pushed PSEG for months for answers about the storm computer system, including what went wrong in advance of Isaias. A LIPA task force uncovered emails from last summer in which a PSEG operations supervisor explained the outage management system was "NOT even managing on a day-to-day basis, and we are definitely NOT prepared for a weather event." The email went up the PSEG chain of command, ultimately landing with PSEG Long Island president Dan Eichhorn, according to the LIPA report. LIPA said PSEG never told them of the problems in advance of the storm.