FirstEnergy Confirms IT Layoffs

The Ohio utility, eyed as a possible cause of last week's blackout, plans to lay off as many as 230 IT workers following the completion of a big SAP implementation and to address staff redundancies after a merger.
A spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., the Ohio utility that's been eyed as a possible source of last week's blackout, confirmed Thursday that the company plans to significantly reduce IT staffing levels.

The spokesman says FirstEnergy will lay off 185 to 230 IT staffers over the next several weeks. The company employs just over 1,000 IT workers. The layoffs are because of the completion of a major SAP implementation at the company and staff redundancies created by FirstEnergy's $4.5 billion merger with GPU Inc. in 2001, the spokesman says.

The merger allowed FirstEnergy to expand operations into Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It now serves about 4.3 million customers and is one of the nation's largest utility holding companies. InformationWeek first reported the company's plans to cut IT staff on Wednesday.

Several FirstEnergy assets were among the first to fail during last week's blackout. At 2 p.m. on Aug. 14, the company's 680-megawatt coal-generation plant in Eastlake, Ohio, went dark. Between 3:06 and 3:41 p.m., three of FirstEnergy's 345-kilovolt transmission lines tripped off.

Some investigators believe those outages sent a tidal wade of energy cascading east, causing power stations and transmission lines from New York to Toronto to defend themselves by shutting down.

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