Y2K upgrade went 'horribly wrong', admits utility giant

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Issue date: 12 August 1999

Article source: Computer Weekly News

Y2K upgrade went 'horribly wrong', admits utility giant

Mike Simons

London Electricity has admitted its #2m year 2000 upgrade for 400,000 prepayment customers has gone "horribly wrong", leaving thousands without power and light for days.

London Electricity managing director Ian Beament admitted, "Around 2,000 customers overall lost electricity, with about a further 2,000 suffering difficulties without losing power last week.

"I am very sorry for the problems some of our Power-key customers have been experiencing," said Beament, who was forced to call in extra staff to visit customers' homes and restore supplies.

Prepayment customers use Powerkeys, which can be recharged at 500 PayPoint outlets in newsagents, convenience stores, off-licences and petrol stations throughout London.

"We started to give our customers new keys, which contained the upgrade and their latest payment but, for a quarter of clients, it either didn't credit the electricity or completely corrupted the meter," said a London Electricity spokesman.

The utility's embarrassment was compounded by the fact that Sussex-based Seeboard successfully rolled out its Powerkey upgrade at the same time as London was experiencing problems.

Initially London Electricity believed it faced a number of different types of error. However, IT staff from London Electricity, PayPoint, and meter manufacturers Schlumberger Industries and Siemens Metering, now think the software patch is sound and that the fault lies in migrating the application to the meter.

The upgrade programme has been suspended until the problems are fixed and customers have been pacified. "Some of our customers have been off supply for a long time. They are not happy, understandably so," said a company spokesman.

London Electricity has promised to work with consumer representatives to provide affected customers with "reasonable compensation".

London Electricity's response to the crisis:

rapid deployment of repair teams

e-mail briefing of all staff on Monday morning with an update on Thursday

letter to all staff at their homes

letters to all Powerkey customers explaining the problems

clear, open press briefings

rapid sharing of information with other companies in the sector

-- Gayla (privacy@please.com), August 13, 1999


Tick... Tock... <:0=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), August 13, 1999.

I think I am about to become a utility worker's widow. I won't be seeing my husband for weeks, last year was bad enough!

-- bardou (bardou@baloney.com), August 13, 1999.

Where is the link to "Failures" when we need to add something? Chuck

-- Chuck, a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), August 13, 1999.

Interesting quote "London Electricity managing director Ian Beament admitted, "Around 2,000 customers overall lost electricity, with about a further 2,000 suffering difficulties without losing power last week.

The impression I got from reading the posts here was that all of London was blacked out.

-- Butt Nugget (nubuttet@better.mousetrap), August 13, 1999.

The various articles posted here said between 2-4,000 customers had problems, but that 400,000 meters were at risk. That is, the other meters still had electricity credit on them; they had yet to run out. Once they run out, the new keys either won't credit the prepaid electricity or will corrupt the meter.

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), August 13, 1999.

On the
This is London
website, I found that the first article claimed 100,000 still powerless and the article starts out with "Thousands".
The same day the rewrote the article, removed the reference to 100,000 and changed the first word to "Hundreds".
Maybe they mean thousands of hundreds. 100,000 fits with the claim that 25% of 400,000 meters were corrupted.

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), August 13, 1999.

Chuck ('n Gayla),

There is a relatively new category titled...

Computer/IT Y2K-Related Glitches (New)

If you stick related Y2K problem threads there, we can find the "failures" more easily.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), August 13, 1999.

No, Butt Nuggett, thats going to happen NEXT YEAR. But its good to see you thinking ahead. Or even thinking, for that matter. (Why don't you think up a new name?)

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.com), August 13, 1999.

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