Power companies in Great Britain are way ahead of others in the area of frank consideration of the y2k threat. Officials are making contingency plans, though what a contingency plan is for a national power failure, I cannot imagine.
This is from COMPUTERWEEKLY NEWS (March 5).
* * * * * * *
Until now everyone has been talking about making sure they fix their systems in time. But there is a growing realisation that, for some, time is something there won't be enough of.
"Contingency planning is the next big issue that needs to be addressed," said Martin Jolleys, year 2000 programme manager for Nuclear Electric, who this month will chair a committee devoted to contingency planning for the utilities sector. Organisations are often reluctant to discuss contingency plans for the year 2000, fearing this will leave them open to criticism that they haven't done enough to remedy the problem directly.
Jolleys warned that this is unrealistic. "It is unreasonable to assume you will get everything 100% right," he said. "There will undoubtedly be some residual risk of some systems failing, at least your business systems. Safety systems should have been subjected to much greater scrutiny."
Whitter's experience of working with emergency services is being duplicated in other regions. Next month, utility companies in Wales will hold a meeting in Cardiff with representatives of the police, local authorities and emergency services to discuss the real impact of the millennium bug and how to solve it.
"There has been a lot of hype about this issue, but we need to sit down and see what needs to be done about it," said Stephen Chapman, director of information services for South Glamorgan Enterprise and Training Council, which is organising the conference. Health services may have worked out how to keep running over the period, he said, but what happens if traffic systems fail?
Scottish Power is already working on the assumption that any critical system that can fail will fail, and will have staff standing by ready to take manual control at its IT sites in Chester and Glasgow, and its operational depots across the UK. For some utilities the problem is already making itself felt. Thames Water's job-management system had to be reprogrammed, as it could not accept forward dates.
But given the safety-critical nature of much of what utilities do, should they not automatically be more advanced than other sectors? Paul Lyons, business continuity manager at SouthWestern Electricity, pointed out that, while utilities tend to be well focused on safety issues, the millennium problem presents a unique challenge.
"If one system fails, the industry is geared up to deal with that," he said. "The problem with the millennium is that you've potentially got concurrent failures."
Welsh utility group Hyder has been assessing the millennium-compliance of all its suppliers and is deciding its contingency plans on that basis. "We're looking at all our existing contingency plans and seeing if they're appropriate," said Richard Fletcher, year 2000 group project manager for Hyder.
Hyder's subsidiary, Dwr Cymru (Welsh Water), is considering running its water treatment plants manually should embedded systems fail. But this could lead to quantity and quality problems for the water supply, said Dilwyn Jones, head of business systems. . . .
A race against time
Despite their central importance to the rest of the infrastructure, the utilities have not, in general, been at the leading edge of year 2000 development plans.
"In terms of safety critical systems they are quite aware of what is going on, but in other areas the utilities have lagged behind," said Ian McInally of investment analyst Greig Middleton, which specialises in the utilities sector. "Early on, there was a lot of complacency in this sector, and in some cases there isn't time to fix everything now."