Y2K demand fluctuations could trip NSW electricity supply

Supply of electricity could fall victim to unforeseen fluctuations in demand that the millennium bug might cause, according to Michael Sinclair, executive manager, Electricity Association of NSW.

Speaking at a Y2K conference hosted by 2000aware, OzEmail and Slater & Gordon Solicitors last week, Sinclair said that sudden fluctuations in demand for electricity have the capacity to trip protective switches, taking NSW generation plants offline.

Such an event could cause a "localised black out" he said.

The NSW electricity industry faces a challenge in predicting electricity demand during an unprecedented event such as the millennium date change, according to Sinclair.

Manufacturers could plan to slow production over the period, he said, or disruption caused by computer failures could result in customers shutting down operations.

Sinclair said electricity suppliers in NSW plan to seek advice from customers about their potential demand, and shut down risk, during the date change.

Meanwhile, Sinclair re-emphasised previous comments that the NSW electricity supply system is not dependent on microprocessors or embedded chips.

"The system relies on electro-magnetic and analog controls," he said. "On what we know to date, date dependency is not going to disrupt the power supply.

"The industry is very confident it will be business as usual over the date critical times."

Sinclair emphasised that his comments related to supply of electricity as opposed to related operations such as grid monitoring systems, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and electricity billing systems.

Delivery of electricity was possible without SCADA, should the grid monitoring system fail, he said.

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