Mon, 27 Aug 2001

Rotating blackouts hit many parts of East Nusa Tenggara

KUPANG, East Nusa Tenggara (JP): A rotating blackout has been implemented in parts of the province since the middle of this month and is expected to continue until December.

The head of local office of state electricity company PLN in Kupang, Eris MT. Gultom, said PLN had been forced to black out areas because two of its generators were extensively damaged.

"The repair work will cost at least Rp 2.5 billion, and we don't have that much money. While buying a new generator with a capacity of five megawatts seems even more unlikely as it would cost around Rp 23 billion."

According to Gultom, the only thing his office can do is temporarily cut power supply to subscribers in the regency of Kupang, the city of Kupang, Timor Tengah Selatan, Timor Tengah Utara and Belu regencies.

"Areas are blacked out in turns, meaning that if power supply to some 4,000 households in the city of Kupang is cut today, the blackout will occur in another area tomorrow," said Gultom.

He declined to reveal the losses sustained by his office due to the blackout.

According to Gultom, he had asked the provincial administration for financial help before deciding to implement a rotating blackout. "Our request was turned down."

He asserted that with current subscribers, his office collected Rp 290.4 billion per annum, while operational costs and other expenses amounted to Rp 413 billion annually.

East Nusa Tenggara deputy governor Johanis Pake Pani admitted that the provincial administration had refused PLN's request for financial help. "PLN can look for foreign investors with whom to cooperate as the province has geo-thermal potential."


Members of the public have complained about the blackout.

Yerri Manapa, a poultry breeder in Fatululi village, said PLN had cut off the power without prior notice.

"I have to stay the night whenever the electricity goes out. I have to light kerosene lamps for the chickens," he said, adding that unannounced electricity cuts could affect the growth of his chickens.

The temperature produced by kerosene lamps is very different from that of electricity. "This could kill the chickens."

Stefen Adoe, owner of a small canteen in Oebobo, Kupang, said the state electricity company had always been unfair.

"PLN fines us Rp 2,500 every time we're late paying our monthly bills, but if it disrupts its services it always has an excuse."

He said his canteen business had been hurt by the power cuts. "People are reluctant to go out at night without street illumination. Moreover, PLN never announces an outage. It cuts the power supply whenever it wants to without prior announcement." (30/sur)