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October 10, 2023updated 11 Oct 2023 2:02pm

Jersey could be without gas for two weeks due to a software error

Services have been shut down and may not be quickly restored. The incident highlights the big impact tech issues can have on businesses.

By Matthew Gooding

Gas supply to residents on the island of Jersey has been cut off after a “software error” and may not be restored for two weeks. Channel Islands gas company Island Energy had hoped to reconnect its 4,500 residents to the grid today, but now says it could take much longer.

Gorey in Jersey, Channel Islands. The island is currently without gas after a ‘software error’. (Photo by DavidYoung/Shutterstock)

The gas supply has been off since Saturday when the error triggered an island-wide shut-down of the system.

Software error causes Jersey gas supply to be cut off

The gas system in Jersey was switched off automatically on Saturday. Island Energy said on Sunday it “isolated and fixed” an issue at its plant in Jersey, which caused supply to be cut off.

A company statement said: “A software error triggered the safety procedure which shut down the plant, which it will do if there is any risk to the network, ensuring that we are safe.”

Though the company had hoped to restore gas supply today, a statement this morning said this was no longer: “Our target is for our plant to be up and running tomorrow and the staged reinstatement of gas to the network from Thursday. However, this is subject to the sign-off of our plan.”

Speaking to the BBC, Island Energy CEO Jo Cox said: “We can take scenario A, which is called self-restore, which means that we don’t have to rely on engineers to visit your home, or we can take scenario B, which means I have to send engineers to visit every single home one by one before we turn it back on.”

Cox said the company hadn’t yet decided which route to take but added: “We’re planning for the worst case scenario, which is scenario B, and that could take between five days to two weeks, that’s a reality.”

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Formerly known as Jersey Gas, the company has provided gas services on the island since 1831. It rebranded as Island Energy in 2022, stating it would lead Jersey’s transition to renewable energy sources. At the same time, it announced its commitment to a digital energy grid by offering customers smart home solutions via subscriptions to Hive or Tado.

How tech leaders can protect themselves from ‘rogue code’

The incident highlights the impact software errors can have on critical infrastructure. In August, an automation error in the UK’s air traffic control system grounded thousands of flights and led to a week of delays for passengers.

Tech Monitor has contacted Island Energy for more details on the nature of Saturday’s problem, but it is a “stark reminder of the consequences that software failures can have in our digital-first world”, according to Evrim Tekesin, regional director for the UK at observability platform Dynatrace.

“We’ve come a long way from the days where a website outage was the worst of our worries,” Tekesin says. “Unfortunately, these incidents are becoming much more difficult to prevent as the complexity of modern technology stacks has been increased by the use of multi-cloud and cloud-native environments. IT teams simply cannot keep up using traditional approaches to building and running their software.”

Tekesin adds that “to protect themselves from issues like the ‘rogue code’ that caused the problem in Jersey, organisations can implement automated quality gates within the software delivery pipeline”. She says: “This automatically checks any new code before it’s allowed to go into a live application – to ensure it won’t have a detrimental effect on the performance or security of the software. As a result, any rogue code is stopped in its tracks, preventing it from causing any impact.”

Read more: The security challenges of digitising the energy grid

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