Early Daylight Time Backers Tout Energy Savings, Despite Confusion

Change could generate business procedure and IT system problems.

Americans were bracing for a confusing weekend that could spill over into the work week, resulting from an early change of clocks to daylight saving time. Daylight, or summer time, begins the night of March 11-12, instead of the first weekend of April, as has been customary. While some warn about havoc in scheduling and computer systems, reminiscent of the Y2K glitch when the year 1999 turned to 2000, others pointed out that the early switch was designed to reap benefits in energy savings.

Representatives Edward Markey and Fred Upton, who sponsored the amendment to the 2005 Energy Bill requiring the change, said it was expected by 2020 to save $4.4 billion in energy bills and avoid the need to build more than three large electric power plants. They said it also would save 279 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and avoid nearly 10.8 million metric tons of carbon emissions because people consume less electricity in the evening if it is still light.

"Not only will Americans have more daylight at their disposal for four additional weeks in the year, but we will also see wide energy saving, less crime, fewer traffic fatalities, more recreation time and increased economic activity. Ultimately, daylight saving just brings a smile to everybody's faces," Markey said.

Others are not smiling. They say U.S. and international businesses have been slow in updating critical computer systems. "We fear that some high-risk organizations are not well prepared," said Andy Kyte, research vice president at the consulting firm Gartner Inc. This is not Y2K-scale, but it could generate business procedure and IT system problems that modestly disrupt smooth business operations, irritate customers and tarnish professional reputations."

Unlike the year 2000 (Y2K) bug, which generated wide publicity and prompted considerable upgrades, this change has gone relatively unnoticed. But because the U.S. change comes at a different time from those in Europe and elsewhere, it has the potential to create some problems. Gartner said multinational organizations or those with customers and suppliers inside and outside the U.S. face a "significant risk of continuous minor irritations and glitches that will negatively impact IT and business efficiency."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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