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PG&E Says Patching Meters For An Early Daylight-Saving Time Will Cost $38 Million

PG&E's reprogramming fiasco is the latest impact caused by the switch to early daylight-saving time.

The main provider of energy to central and northern California says its meters won't work properly on March 11 because of this year's early rollover to daylight-saving time and that reprogramming them would cost $38 million.

To work around the problem, Pacific Gas and Electric asked for, and received, permission from California's Public Utilities Commission to change the way it bills its customers to compensate for the fact that its meters won't automatically spring ahead one hour on March 11, according to state records.

PG&E bills some of its customers under a so-called time-of-use program, under which customers pay different rates for electricity depending on the time of day. To adjust for early daylight-saving without having to reprogram its meters, the company has received permission to simply inform customers that rate schedules will begin and end one hour earlier than published for the period between March 11 and the first Sunday in April, when daylight-saving would have normally have gone into effect.

For a hypothetical example, a peak usage period that ordinarily would start at 6 p.m. will instead start at 5 p.m. to compensate for the fact that meters will be one hour behind during the transition period.

California state records show that PG&E received permission for the billing change last April, but it's the latest indication that the switch to early daylight-saving could cause more trouble than originally anticipated for businesses that rely heavily on computerized equipment with built-in timing mechanisms.

Consulting firm Gartner has issued a report predicting that early daylight-saving will not be a Y2K-style event, but the firm is warning that "failure to patch exposed systems will result in a range of business impacts."

Last month, Microsoft issued an alert noting that a fix is already built into Windows Vista and Office 2007, but cautioned that earlier operating systems and applications could be hit by the problem. The company has released an update for Windows XP SP2 users via its Automatic Updates service. Users need to ensure they have Auto Update enabled.

IBM, Novell, and a number of other major IT systems vendors are also issuing updates and fixes designed to make their products compatible with early daylight-saving time.

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