The Y2K Challenge: a new shock?

The consulting firm that some say was instrumental in starting the whole Y2K “industry” with predictions of gloom and doom now says that at least the “gloom” aspect of Y2K is a non-starter. U.S. technology consultants the Gartner Group have released a report that predicts that electricity supplies around the world will remain “more or less stable” as clocks roll over into the new millennium December 31.

Not surprisingly, countries like Canada and the U.S. can expect power as usual, while Third World countries can also expect the usual, which in many cases means power cuts and outages.

The Gartner Group has achieved a high media profile through the millennium bug season, with their most famous (or infamous, depending on which side of the bug you’re on) prediction saying that the cost of fixing the Y2K problem worldwide would run between $300 billion and $600 billion.

Now that the Y2K consulting business is coming to an end, the people at Gartner are circumspect, if not reassuring. “During December 1999 and January 2000, at least 99 percent of the global population will receive at least 99 percent of their normal service levels for electricalnfrastructure services,” the company said in its report. “All year 2000 assessments agree on one thing: everyone is dependent on infrastructure services. Both public sector and commercial organizations claim that they are ready for the century boundary, but point at infrastructure services like electricity and telephony.”

In the meantime, a drop in demand for electricity over the crucial period will give utilities extra breathing room, if they need it.

“At the period of critical risk — midnight on December 31, 1999 — electricity planners believe that there will be historic low demand,” the report says. “This is because so many industrial users will have shut down plant and equipment as part of their year 2000 boundary plans.”