They see utilities responding, but fear outlying areas are overlooked.
Despite reports of year 2000-readiness from virtually all electric utilities, and a promise from the U.S. Department of Energy to pressure the laggards, some customers still fear being left in the dark on Jan. 1, 2000. That view may surprise some, but it emerged clearly from the conference held in Chicago August 5-6 by the North American Electric Reliability Council, to update utilities and their customers on electric industry progress in Y2K problem mitigation.
"The small mom-and-pop shops are worried," said Susie Boardman, senior vice president and general manager at Bank of America's Year 2000 BAC Project Office. Boardman told workshop attendees that she is concerned that small utilities will not be Y2K-ready before the end of the year.
The Y2K problem concerns the possible malfunction of older computer software due to interpretation of the year code "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. The worry is that such malfunctions may lead to power failures.
"Bank of America has provided backup generators to critical systems at 5,000 of our bank branches, but there are bank branches located in areas where utilities have not responded to bank inquiries about their Y2K status," Boardman said
John Sulek, national energy manager in the facility management division at Kmart Corp., also attended the meeting. He said he is especially concerned that Kmart stores in rural areas will not receive power because small utilities may lack resources to address Y2K problems.
NERC and DOE: The Company Line