Blackouts Illuminate Need to Invest in Power
Once again, we are faced with parts of the city being left in the dark after a fire broke out and burned down a major switching center in East Jakarta on Tuesday. As dusk fell a day later, the electricity supply continued to be disrupted in various parts of the capital and in neighboring Tangerang.
The state electricity utility, PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara, said it had problems finding a transformer to replace one damaged in the fire in Cawang and another that had broken down just a day earlier in Kembangan, West Jakarta. PLN officials said the company was being forced to cut off supply on a rotational basis across much of the city well into next week.
It is unbelievable that the capital is subject to days of large-scale rolling blackouts due to the mere malfunction of one or two switching stations. Besides clearly causing discomfort to the population, with many dependent on electricity supply for lighting, water pumps or home industries, such supply disruptions are clearly leading to huge economic losses, both to the government and the private sector.
Sofyan Wanandi, chairman of the Indonesian Employers’ Association, has aired a figure of at least Rp 100 billion ($10.4 million) in daily losses caused by the blackouts. He also pointed out that those likely to suffer most from the power outage were the city’s small- and medium-sized businesses. Large enterprises often have their own power generators if not power stations.
The estimate did not even include losses arising from the chaotic traffic situation caused by the disfunction of many of the city’s traffic lights.
This latest incident highlights the urgency for greater investments in the power sector. PLN has repeatedly warned that most of its power plants and network are aging and need huge investment to maintain, renew or expand, but the state company has clearly failed to anticipate any breakdowns.
In view of the vulnerability of the electricity supply network as shown in Tuesday’s incident, PLN should be ready with an emergency plan and a clear standard operating procedure to deal with such emergencies.
It is true that the government has recently opened the power sector to the private sector, but what is needed is improvement in the investment climate to draw the much-needed capital for the development of power infrastructure.
The nation has set itself some ambitious goals to grow its economy and boost development. It is clearly determined to revive economic development, including by addressing the massive infrastructure deficit that has hindered national development for years now.
For these to be realized, adequate power and electricity networks will be critical.