Fri, 22 Aug 2003

PLN told to delay power plants overhaul

Fitri Wulandari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The government will delay the planned overhaul of a number of power plants to avoid shortfalls in power supply during the current, prolonged dry season.

"We have ordered PLN to delay its overhaul plans. All power plants must be prepared to take appropriate action in the event of a severe drought," Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Purnomo Yusgiantoro said on Thursday, referring to the state- owned electricity company.

Purnomo said that the postponement of overhaul plans could ensure that an additional power supply of 1,500 to 2,000 megawatts (MW) were maintained.

"We have also asked PLN to maximize the generating capacity of old power plants as a precaution," he added.

However, he acknowledged that the delay would cause a serious reduction in the performance of the power plants in the future.

According to PLN, some 214 power generators of different types exist in the main Java-Bali network. Around 20 power generators at a time are usually subject to routine maintenance work.

PLN warned earlier that a severe power supply shortfall was imminent in the Java-Bali region, as a number of hydropower plants might have to stop operating due to low water levels in reservoirs if the current drought extended until October.

The power firm warned that power supply shortfalls would become increasingly serious when a number of coal- and oil-fired power plants were scheduled for routine overhaul in October.

PLN president Eddie Widiono said this year's drought was lasting longer than predicted. Therefore, certain measures had to be taken to prevent power supply shortfalls.

"If hydropower plants are not operating, power supply will decline by 900 to 1,000 MW," Eddie was quoted by Antara as saying.

Hydropower plants contribute some 2,536 MW to the Java-Bali network, or 14 percent of the total supply for the region.

At present, PLN can supply only slightly above the peak load of about 13,250 MW, from a total installed capacity of 18,000 MW. This leaves the Jawa-Bali power system vulnerable to power disruption.

In order to avoid this, PLN has to set aside a reserve of a minimum of 615 MW or more in case of problems at a major power plant. However, PLN has a reserve capacity of less than 400 MW.

Purnomo added PLN was still negotiating with a number of businesses on the possibility of buying their independently generated, unused power.

PLN director of power plants and distribution Herman Darnel Ibrahim said the company had clinched a deal to buy some 80 MW from state-owned steelmaker PT Krakatau Steel.

"Krakatau has also agreed to cut its power usage by 200 MW and to operate outside peak-load hours," Herman told The Jakarta Post.

According to Herman, unused power (as described above) in Java alone totaled about 9,000 MW.