Hours-Long Power Outage in Jakarta Tests Local Businesses

A four hour power outage in Jakarta on Tuesday (02/01) helped exposed chronic vulnerability in the country's basic infrastructure that has proven costly to local businesses. (Antara Photo/Umarul Faruq)

By : Dion Bisara & Sarah Yuniarni | on 10:17 PM January 02, 2018
Category : Business, Corporate News

Jakarta. A four hour power outage in Jakarta on Tuesday (02/01) helped expose chronic vulnerability in the country's basic infrastructure that has proven costly to local businesses.

Most of the capital and surrounding areas were without power from 07.00 a.m.-11.00 a.m. in the morning, as offices and manufacturing plants returned to normal operations after four days of New Year's celebrations.

State-controlled utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara, which has a monopoly on power transmission in the country, said that 17 out of 80 major transmission hubs in Jakarta went offline -- for an unknown reason -- and caused power outages in most areas around the capital.

PLN needed around three hours to reroute the power using other hubs, with priority given to public facilities like hospitals, public transport and government offices, said Dini Sulistyawati, a manager at PLN Distribusi Jakarta Raya.

The blackout stands as a painful reminder for more than 361,000 manufactures and businesses in Jakarta to keep backup power systems ready in case of emergencies.

"We mitigate such risks by setting up electrical generators in each of our offices," said Haryono Tjahjarijadi, the president director of Bank Mayapada.

"Of course it means additional costs for the generator itself and for the fuel," Haryono said.

The outage disrupted the IDX trading system early in the morning, but the bourse managed to kick off backup power generators before stock trading started at 09.00 a.m., IDX spokesman Yulianto Adi Sadono said.

For businesses that are less prepared, disruption to operations could cost much more than the price of generators or fuel.

The World Bank's Enterprise Surveys found that Indonesia's businesses lost 1.9 percent of total sales due to outages in 2015, down slightly from 2.2 percent six years earlier.

In comparison, businesses in neighboring countries like the Philippines and Malaysia lost only 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent of their sales, respectively. Vietnamese firms saw 2.2 percent of their sales wiped out by power blackouts, while businesses in Thailand, which were surveyed in 2016, lost 4.1 percent of their sales.

Toll road operator Jasa Marga saw its company's electronic payment system -- which it has required for all users since October -- ceased to function and caused traffic jams in some major toll gates, enraging many of its customers.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience, Pondok Ranji toll gate is now under maintenance," Jasa Marga said on its official Twitter account, referring to one of its toll gates in Jakarta's outskirts. The company said in a later statement that it managed to keep disruptions to a minimum by deploying mobile generators to impacted locations.

Other business, like telecom operators Smartfren Telecom and Indosat, invested in expensive backup power equipment to ensure uninterrupted operations of their networks, seeing outages as a common risk they have to face.

"Each time we experience an outage, the system switches to our own generator. The process just takes milliseconds," Smartfren Yodi Hartanto said

"The switch has not failed us so far and we really do not have any complaints about power. But, it is better if [the outage] just doesn't happen in the first place," Yodi said.

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