Amid Power ‘Crisis,’ PLN Puts a Price on Blackouts

Jul, 22 2010

Penulis :

Jakarta. Just days after public pressure forced a review of electricity rate hikes, swathes of Jakarta — including the international airport — suffered another power outage on Wednesday.

And with timing that could not have been planned with a greater sense of irony, the head of state electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara chose Wednesday to announce it was introducing a premium service guaranteeing uninterrupted power supply.

One of the transformers at the Muara Karang power station in North Jakarta went down at 9:40 a.m., causing hours of cuts in the city and disrupting traffic and businesses.

“We lost about 700 megawatts at that time,” said Purnomo Willy, PLN’s general manager for Jakarta and Tangerang. He said firms in the affected areas would be refunded 10 percent of their base charge.

Areas around Muara Karang, including Pluit, were worst affected, but the power outage also hit Soekarno-Hatta Airport.

The airport’s backup power generator immediately took over, preventing any disruptions to air traffic.

Blackouts have been increasingly frequent in recent years as the grid is overloaded and equipment failures are common.

Fabby Tumiwa, executive director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform expects power outages to worsen in coming months.

“With PLN’s small budget for operations and maintenance, any quality improvements would only be effective after six months or even next year,” he said.

Tulus Abadi, chairman of the Indonesian Consumer Protection Foundation (YLKI), said PLN must compensate customers because “they promised that there would be no more blackouts after the tariff increased.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, visiting firms in Tangerang, called the electricity problems “a crisis” and urged firms to reduce usage, especially at peak times.

PLN president director Dahlan Iskan, who was accompanying the president, used a visit to PT Sanyo Jaya Components in Cibitung, Tangerang, to announce a “premium” service for businesses that appeared to offer only one key pledge — no power cuts.

“This morning we signed an agreement with cement maker Semen Gresik for a special service,” Dahlan said. “We promise that there will no blackouts and a stable supply. As the feed comes from several places, if one malfunctions there will be supply from others.”

PT Sanyo Jaya Components president director Koshiro Kitagawa had earlier complained to Yudhoyono that the company’s operation were often disrupted by power shortages.

“We have customers worldwide who will not accept the excuse that we could not produce because PLN failed to supply,” he said.

Kitagawa said the company had even been forced to consider building its own gas-fueled power plant.

Dahlan said the premium service guaranteed supply, had no load limit, ensured voltage quality and included a penalty scheme to police its reliability.

The service costs a decidedly premium-level Rp 809 (8 cents) per kilowatt hour.

On Monday, the government decided to cap standard electricity rate hikes at 18 percent, which would mean a rate of Rp 537 per kilowatt hour for small firms.

Yudhoyono has said the increases were needed to ease the subsidy burden on the budget.

Ketut Suardhana Linggih, the president director of printing and publishing company PT Ganeca Exact, which the president visited after Sanyo, said his company had pushed production efficiency in a bid to minimize the impact of the rising cost of electricity on the price of its products.

“We are trying not to burden consumers by increasing our efficiency, avoiding work during the peak hours,” Ketut told the president.
Yudhoyono said he appreciated the effort and called on other businesses to follow suit.

Camelia Pasandaran & Ulma Haryanto

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