Jokowi takes power supplier to task over massive blackout

Motorists in Jakarta navigating darkened streets during the massive power outage on Sunday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Motorists in Jakarta navigating darkened streets during the massive power outage on Sunday. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has chastised state-owned electricity company PLN for the massive blackout that hit Jakarta and its neighbouring provinces on Sunday.

"With whatever means, the electricity must be restored in areas that have yet to recover," he said during a visit to the firm's headquarters yesterday. "Such a major incident should never happen again."

The blackout, which PLN blamed on disruptions in two extra-high-voltage power transmission circuits, began at 11.48am Jakarta time. It caused power to go out for up to eight hours in the capital, Banten, West Java and Central Java. In some areas, power was not restored even after more than 24 hours.

Mr Joko questioned why PLN management did not have risk governance and back-up strategies in place. "We know this did not only damage PLN's reputation, but it also affected many other elements outside PLN, especially consumers that were at a loss," he said in a statement. "It was very dangerous, for instance, for public transport services like the MRT." Mr Joko, widely known as Jokowi, called for PLN to fix the problem as soon as possible.

PLN's acting president director Sripeni Inten Cahyani responded by explaining that the company did not anticipate simultaneous disruptions at two of its four power transmission systems when another was under regular maintenance - meaning only one was operational.

"We apologise for the slow process. We admit it has been snail-paced," she said. The company is still probing the incident. PLN, which has estimated a loss of 90 billion rupiah (S$8.7 million) as a result of the incident, vowed to compensate affected residents by cutting power tariffs. But it said it still could not fully restore electricity as soon as expected as its power supply will recover only gradually.

Yesterday, PLN carried out blackouts alternately in greater Jakarta and the neighbouring city of Bandung. Alternate blackouts are common outside Java and Bali, as the world's largest archipelago has not been able to cope with surging power demand.

Although activities in the capital apparently ran smoothly, some residents, especially in areas on the outskirts of Jakarta like Tangerang, said they had been struggling since Sunday morning.

A resident of Bintaro in Banten, who identified himself only as Zul, said: "Residents here start to panic because they cannot get water... A number... are going to public places that have generators to take water."

 
 

Businesses big and small were also affected. It is the worst blackout to hit Indonesia since 2008.

It caused chaos in the streets of Jakarta and Bandung, paralysing traffic lights and public transport, as well as cellphone and banking services. Travellers were stranded at train stations, while some chose to stay at hotels which had power.

The Indonesian Retailers Association estimated the blackout, which affected over 2,500 stores, could generate 200 billion rupiah in losses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline 'Jokowi takes power supplier to task over massive blackout'. Print Edition | Subscribe