A top energy industry official said Thursday that the chances of year-2000-related power blackouts are slim.
Gerry Cauley, year-2000 project manager at the North American Electrical Reliability Council, an electricity industry trade group, said tests performed so far by the energy industry showed only "minimal impacts" on operations.
"There are a number of nuisance-type anomalies that occur," he said, but nothing that would actually cause a plant "to trip out."
Mr. Cauley's remarks came at the first of three government-sponsored forums for the banking industry on the millennium bug. It was designed to let bank trade group officials quiz energy and telecommunications representatives about year-2000 preparations.
Though banks are widely considered to lead the nation in year-2000 readiness, many in the industry see energy and telecommunications as wild cards beyond their immediate control.
If a bank loses power or use of phone lines on Jan. 1, 2000, commerce could be forced to a near standstill. Automated teller machines, for example, would cease to work.
"We are all aware that the financial services industry does not operate in a vacuum," said Donna A. Tanoue, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Michael K. Powell, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, said that though the agency lacks the statutory power to demand year-2000 compliance by telecommunications companies, competitive pressures will probably force them to prepare diligently.
"You have an industry whose whole business is dependent on network reliability," Mr. Powell said. "These are people who are profoundly worried" about the year-2000 problem.
The speakers also noted that just as bankers depend on the integrity of the power and telecommunications networks, such firms have their own dependencies.
Among the business continuity strategies being planned by the power industry are backup communications systems, stockpiling of fuels, and increased staffing at key facilities, Mr. Cauley said.
The second financial services summit will take place in the spring. It is expected to address banks' year-2000 contingency plans.