Saturday, August 20, 2005

A power outage in Indonesia that left about 100 million people without electricity has caused a political crisis. The country’s state-owned energy monopoly, PLN, has not determined the immediate cause, and the country’s president has ordered the national intelligence agency and police to investigate.

The blackout appears related to deficiencies in Indonesia’s power generation capacity.

The power failure follows attempts to deal with the country’s growing energy crisis, including conservation and trying to allow private companies to provide energy, which was ruled unconstitutional in 2004. In January, the Indonesian government held a special energy summit to attract investment in their energy infrastructure. At the summit they set the goal of adding 22,000 megawatts to Indonesia’s present capacity of 23,000 megawatts, in order to support the country’s growth.

The World Bank and others have warned that without more investment in the country’s energy infrastructure an energy deficit will result. However, foreign investors remain wary of investing in Indonesia. “The power outage has resulted in worries over an energy crisis which could hurt the nation’s industrial sector,” said a trader on Indonesia’s stock market.[1]

The outage began at 10:23 a.m. local time, August 18, 2005, when power failed along the electrical system that connects Java, Bali, and Madura, causing outages in Java and Bali. Almost half of the country depends on the electrical grid that experienced failures. Some of the main lines on the grid are over 20 years old, according to PLN president Eddie Widiono.

The blackout caused traffic jams in Jakarta, forced cancellation of several international and domestic flights at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, shut down Jakarta’s electric train service, and disrupted hospital operations. Some larger hospitals were forced to delay surgeries while many smaller hospitals could not receive patients. About 1,800 officers were called into action by Jakarta’s metropolitan police to deal with short-term problems caused by the power failure.

Candles used in place of electric lighting started six fires in Jakarta alone.

Mulyo Aji, a PLN official, said more power failures are likely in the future as energy demand increases, without any corresponding new supplies of electricity scheduled to come online soon.

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