Sat, 04 Aug 2001

PLN says natural causes behind power outage

JAKARTA (JP): State electricity company PT PLN said early investigations indicated that unpredictable forces of nature were responsible for the power outage that affected several areas of Jakarta on Thursday, dismissing suspicions of deteriorating services due to PLN's financial constraints.

PLN general manager in charge of power distribution for Jakarta and Tangerang, Margo Santoso, said that wayward kites or forces of nature, such as lightning, could have triggered Thursday's power outage.

He said that this type of interference would not damage transmission equipment, but instead activated a security system that shut down the supply of power.

"When the disruption occurred our men simply needed to turn the power back on," he told The Jakarta Post.

On Thursday, a number of areas in Jakarta were left in the dark for several hours when power went out at about 4:38 p.m.. PLN said it had been able to resume the power supply by 5:15 p.m..

Among the affected areas were North, East, Central and South Jakarta, including Angke, Ancol, Tanjung Priok, Gedung Pola, Cempaka Putih, Plumpang, Marunda, Mangga Besar, Kelapa Gading, Gambir and Pondok Gede.

"Because the problem occurred on the 500 kilovolt (KV) transmission cable between Cibinong and Bekasi, the impact was huge," Margo said.

Margo explained that the 500KV transmission grids control the electricity supplies for large areas.

According to him, power outages at 500KV transmission grids caused by natural agents occurred once last year, not at all in 1999 and twice in 1998.

Margo dismissed concerns that budget constraints at PLN had led to lower maintenance for its 500KV transmission grids.

"The 500KV transmission grid is too vital to be left unattended," he said.

Fears that PLN may have cut its maintenance budget arose due to consideration of the company's massive financial losses suffered over the last three years.

With some Rp 24 trillion (about US$2.5 billion) in losses last year, PLN's financial performance is among the worst of the state firms.

The power outage also came amid fears of rising power demand leading to overloads at several transmission grids, but Margo dismissed the idea that this had occurred on Thursday.

He said PLN was still investigating the cause behind the power outage, though there was a likelihood that they would not establish any concrete evidence.

"It's hard to determine the real cause, as no physical damage was found at our installations," he explained.

He said that instances of natural forces disrupting power supplies were common, even in developed countries.

On one occasion "cosmic dust" was believed to have prompted a power outage in the United States, according to Margo.(bkm)