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Indonesia president criticises state power company over blackouts

Indonesia president criticises state power company over blackouts
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By Bernadette Christina

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Monday the state power company PLN should have had contingency plans in place to prevent a major electricity blackout that affected the capital Jakarta and neighbouring provinces.

In the wake of Sunday’s power outage that affected areas home to more than 100 million people, Widodo asked why the power company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) did not have a back-up plan given past blackouts.

“Things that can cause this big event should not happen again in the future,” Widodo told management during a visit to PLN headquarters.

“The most important thing is I have asked to repair it quickly,” he added.

Jakarta, the centre of government and business in Indonesia, suffers periodic blackouts that are usually short-lived and confined to certain areas.

Power was lost after faulty transmission circuits triggered “cascading voltage” that caused power plants supplying electricity to the west part of Java island to disconnect, PLN said.

The outage is one of the most serious since a major transmission failure cut power in Java and Bali in 2005.

The blackout halted Jakarta’s mass rapid transit (MRT) system and commuter lines to surrounding areas, stranding passengers who had to be evacuated from trains.

Sripeni Inten Cahyani, PLN’s acting CEO, said it was still conducting recovery operations and warned of further disruption until power is fully restored.

“We apologise, but until the afternoon there will be rolling blackouts,” Cahyani said. “Hopefully with more of the big power stations reconnected, there will be fewer blackouts”.

PLN needed more time to restore services because its coal-fired power plants, which supply most of the power supply on the main island of Java, required a “cold start” after the lengthy outage, she said.

Djoko Abumanan, a PLN director, said rolling blackouts would also be conducted in East Java and the tourist island of Bali to reduce the burden in the west part of Java.

The company was still investigating the cause of the transmission failure, but Cahyani said the problem was “purely technical”.

Arief Puyono, the chairman of the state enterprises workers union, said the outage was embarrassing as Widodo campaigns to attract more investment to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

“All the PLN board of directors should be responsible for the losses caused by this outage,” Puyono said.

(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Ed Davies and Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Darren Schuettler)

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