Millennium perils remain

Life-threatening computer failures in essential utility services are still possible on January 1 2000, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) said this week. Most companies still need to obtain assurances of 2000 compliance from their suppliers, the report says. And it warns that most of the utility companies have yet to complete contingency […]

Life-threatening computer failures in essential utility services are still possible on January 1 2000, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) said this week.

Most companies still need to obtain assurances of 2000 compliance from their suppliers, the report says. And it warns that most of the utility companies have yet to complete contingency plans for dealing with failures.

The NAO examined the efforts of the industry regulators to ensure that utilities can maintain services over the New Year period.

All four services water, gas, electricity and telecommunications rely hugely on computers, electronics and microprocessors, which are potentially vulnerable to the millennium bug.

Failure of a pump or valve in the water sector due to the millennium date problem, for instance, could result in water supplies being cut off or flooding from sewers.

The regulators regard 68 companies 19 in the electricity sector, two in gas, 19 in telecommunications and 28 in water as critical to ensuring the maintenance of services as the new millennium begins.

All 68 companies have informed the regulators about progress on their own systems and have timetables for full compliance, but the regulators have ‘only limited information’ on the progress to safeguard the continuity of key supplies.