Is there really a risk of power failure? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Can someone with real technical knowledge tell me whether there is a risk of power cuts from embedded chips failing. This is the biggie (apart from financial failures!), this is the one thats sending everyone into paroxysms. Is it real. Would older power stations (with primitive control systems) like tose in the UK! be at risk. If there is no risk, then we don't have to have these endless discussions about the end of society, self- sufficiency etc. Who can clear the air, Ed? I know its been asked a thousand times before. Best Regards Richard

-- Richard Dale (, July 15, 1998


Glad you used the word "a risk of" rather than "will be"! There fore the answer is yes. But then we need to know if you are talking of 5%, 95%, 1%, or 99% risk. ;) Not trying to use weasel words, just pointing out how difficult it is to get a handle on the sliperiest question of Y2K.

It appears that many people are thinking that Y2K will arrive precisely at 00:00 01/01/2000 and not a second before nor a second after. These people might be very surprised if bank runs start in April of 1999 and bring down the global banking system before May. Doesn't the UK's govt. go on fiscal year 2000 on 4/1/99?

What if the power plants keep running on 1/1/2000 but run low on coal on 2/18/2000?

Gary North expostulates "it's a systemic problem!!!". Ed Yourdon talks about the "ripple effect" and has drawings of little circles with interconnecting lines. Most people still don't get it.

An entire power system might be 100% Y2K compliant, but if it is coal fired and the railroads are hopelessly bogged down due to tracking software and signal control glitches, it doesn't matter. No coal = no steam.

Governments will of course pay attention to the big companies, but if certain critical small companies fail (bad bookkeeping, failed bank, whatever) that provide critical parts to keep the big boys up and running, it doesn't matter.

So it is impossible to predict what will happen. The big question is this, what percentage of indivivdual components of an economic system can fail before the entire system fails? I think it is safe to say, we just don't know. It might be more accurate to say, we don't have a clue, nothing like this has ever happened before. The closest(?) thing would be the 1929 stock market crash, but that was in just one sector of the economy, the financial markets.

I have to laugh, another person in another thread was lambasting the "gloom and doomers" and said that he/she was not interested in what MIGHT happen and will only take action when we know what WILL happen. Such faith in human omniscience is interesting, though perhaps fatal.

-- R. K.Watt (, July 15, 1998.

You can get some idea about how badly society can get banged about before it collapses from WWII. In the UK, a goodly chunk of the normal working population was conscripted, and a good chunk of the peacetime economy was diverted to war production. Raw materials supplies were badly hurt, almost everything was rationed. And, of course, there were bombs raining down.

Apart from the risk of getting killed or maimed, the rest was inconvenience and hardship but no worse.

Nazi Germany refused to surrender, and got damaged still worse towards the end of the war. There, it's unclear whether society could have struggled back to "normal" without outside help. It's probably reasonable to say this is a fair estimate of where the edge lies, if there's no "outside".

More recently, there's the example of Iraq. I have no sympathy at all for her so-called "government", but a lot for the suffering of her people. It's also possible to see that life goes on, somehow.

As to the original question, it's the biggest unknown in the whole equation. There is certainly a risk of power cuts (I'd say a certainty). The real question, however, is whether the electricity generation infrastructure could fail so badly that it becomes impossible to repair before society collapses. My own opinion is that this is about as likely as a nuclear war, and I have no plans to prepare for either nightmare. More probably, there will be short-term uncontrolled black-outs followed by longer-term rota power cuts as a way of reducing demand to match a restricted supply while things are repaired. Inconvenience, hardship, but not the end.

I also acknowlege I'm guessing, as is everyone else. For reliable technical info, check out Rick Cowles site (

-- Nigel Arnot (, July 15, 1998.

Excellent assessment Nigel.

-- Patrick Coghill (, July 30, 1998.


The question I have to ask you, is what does it matter? You will NEVER know the answer. Ok? NEVER, until 1-1-00. Now, are you going to wait to get ready 'cause you aren't sure what will happen with power? That is stu- , not smart. You are faced with big decisions regarding preparation with incomplete information with which to make those decisions. That situation IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE.

Do not use your lack of certainty as a rationalization for further delay!! Do not spend your precious time trying to find the answers to questions you cannot answer. ACT!

Most folks don't have the resources to go off grid with anywhere near their current power consumption, so forget this!

If you DO have the money, spend it and make yourself energy self sufficient. That has wonderful benefits both globally ( Ugh, I sound GREEN...) and personally. If you can't, then focus on how you will provide water and food for yourself and your loved ones. Pay attention to security, large urban centers will be hell holes.

These are REAL QUESTIONS, with REAL ANSWERS, that you can and must address. This constant picking of nits regarding the larger questions is a fine pastime, AFTER the food and water are in the basement. AFTER you have placed your family in as safe an environment as you possibly can. AFTER you have secured your money out of the system. AFTER you have put this energy in preparing to help those that can't help themselves. Before that, they serve as dangerous distractions. Makes you feel like you are in the game, thinking about all these important things. Feels good, feels important. That is all crap.

Time is running out, my friend. Like the old Pink Floyd song says ..." no-one told you when to run, you missed the starting gaaate."

I'm telling you all, RUN! NOW! Don't be like the deer, staring at the headlights, debating;

a) the truck's probably not that big b) it might swerve and miss me c) it's may not be going that fast, either d) I wonder what the experts on trucks say e) my brother-in-law's friend's cousin said one missed him once f) If trucks were really that big a problem, we would have "herd" about it already g) it's only there 'cause the driver is making money on scaring me h) if everyone would quit talking about how bad trucks are, this one would just disappear i) the smart thing to do is wait a little longer till I know for sure, then I'll do someth---

-- Will Huett (, July 31, 1998.

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