Even as LIPA and PSEG continue to work through final computer system tests tied to failures following Tropical Storm Isaias, LIPA trustees on Wednesday approved a plan to separate and bring to Long Island 46 different computer systems that have been operated by PSEG’s New Jersey parent.
LIPA chief Tom Falcone at a LIPA trustee meeting said separation of the systems was part of a reformed 2021 contract that LIPA demanded following the storm, which left more than 535,000 customers without power while computer and communication systems collapsed.
Most of the core grid-functioning systems are already based on Long Island, but other functions, including cybersecurity and a long list of administrative functions, are owned or run by PSEG's parent or its contractors. Those systems are being transitioned over to LIPA’s grid-operating company called Servco.
Information released as part of the plan said the transition will cost around $10 million and be completed by the end of 2024. State legislators are working on a study that could see LIPA become a fully public utility by 2025, when the PSEG contract ends.
“For the next 24 months we’ll separate the [information technology] systems so that we don’t have overlap or dependencies on New Jersey,” Falcone said.
The cybersecurity component is particularly critical given the recent ransomware attack impacting Suffolk County government. Falcone said LIPA and PSEG have been particularly cognizant about the threat of cyberattacks and are prepared.
“The entire electric utility business is extremely focused on cybersecurity, the LIPA board is extremely focused on cybersecurity and in our contract with PSEG we segregated a chief information security officer” specifically to deal with the heightened threats.
Falcone said PSEG has made “good progress” in dealing with computer testing and protocol issues the authority identified as PSEG rolled out a new version of a computer outage management system for storm response, but acknowledged there was still work to be done.
LIPA this month conducted a five-hour test of the computer system simulating conditions similar to Isaias and “did not observe any significant anomalies,” the authority said in written materials. Another test is planned for October. LIPA also has identified other issues relating to testing protocols for the system, and said PSEG is committed to addressing them.
“It’s about making sure these systems are as bulletproof as possible,” Falcone said in the event of a storm or other emergency.
PSEG has done its own tests of the system and said it is ready for a storm. “PSEG Long Island has successfully completed all functional tests and is adding more detail on the testing scripts so that the LIPA team can run the tests without PSEG support,” the company said in an operating report to LIPA trustees.
David Lyons, PSEG Long Island’s interim president and chief operating officer, said the company is exceeding standards for reliability performance demanded under the new LIPA contract, including reducing the number and duration of outages.
PSEG officials also noted the company’s score on the J.D. Power residential customer satisfaction survey has been rising, to 691 out of 1,000 for the year, after scoring 701 on the most recent third-quarter survey. PSEG Long Island's score last year was 677. It’s still uncertain if PSEG will hit the goal of a cumulative 700 score by year's end. On the business side the PSEG score dipped to 692 out of 1,000 for the year, compared with 737 in 2021.
Asked why the company’s Long Island score was so much lower than that of its New Jersey parent, which is top-ranked with a 769 year-to-date score for 2022, officials attributed the Long Island division’s lower scores to residual issues related to PSEG’s performance during Isaias.
At the board meeting, LIPA dedicated a bench at the Energy and Nature Center at Jones Beach to former trustee Matthew Cordaro, who died in February 2021. Falcone described Cordaro as “an old-school utility guy, and that’s a compliment,” while trustee Sheldon Cohen noted that “we all [on the board] consciously or unconsciously relied on Matt” for his utility expertise. “He was the North Star.”