Jakarta experienced its worst electricity blackout in nearly two decades on Sunday, with some areas left without power from almost 12 hours. (Antara Photo/Adeng Bustomi)

Power Is Back On, but Politicians Out for Blood


AUGUST 05, 2019

Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo visited the head office of state-owned utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara on Monday to demand an explanation for Sunday's massive electricity blackout in Jakarta, West Java and Banten.

The Indonesian capital experienced its worst blackout in nearly two decades, with some areas left without power from almost 12 hours. Power has since been fully restored. 

"There should be a contingency plan. My question is why PLN did not work fast. I know blackout occurred in Java and Bali 17 years ago; it should have been a lesson on how to prevent a recurrence of this type of incident," Jokowi said.

"We know this not only damaged PLN's reputation, but many things outside PLN were also harmed," he added. 

Sunday's blackout affected all commuter trains, the Jakarta MRT and traffic lights, while cellphone coverage became patchy in some areas. Automated teller machines were also affected, while many businesses were forced to only accept cash transactions as they were unable to connect to banks' electronic payment systems.

The backout affected nearly 70 million people in the greater Jakarta area, West Java and Banten. The three provinces combined account for more than a third of Indonesia's daily economic activity.

The commercial sector is estimated to have suffered trillions of rupiah in losses during the blackout, as many small and medium businesses were forced to close their doors. The situation would have been worse had it occurred on a weekday.

"This incident will also make investors hesitant to invest in Indonesia if the electricity supply is unreliable like this," Sarman Simanjorang, deputy chairman of the Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), said in a statement. 

PLN earlier said there was interference with the Ungaran-Pemalang high-voltage transmission line that connects power plants in the eastern part of Java Island with the western part. 

This had a cascading effect on powerplants in the western part, as they became overloaded. One by one, the plants had to be shut down to avoid damage.  

Sripeni Inten Cahyani, acting president director of PLN, said the utility company needed time to stabilize the system and get the power back on line. 

"We apologize that the process was slow," Sripeni told the president. "Despite the emergency, the system voltage and frequency had to be maintained. If the frequency dropped, the power plants would have tripped again." 

Golkar Party lawmaker Maman Abdurahman has called for a total overhaul of PLN's top management.

"Let's use this blackout as momentum to completely overhaul the management. Events such as these will occur again and I get the impression that PLN is like a donkey that has not learnt from its previous mistakes," Maman said, as quoted by Detik.com.

Sripeni, a chemistry graduate, previously served in various top finance positions at PLN and its subsidiaries. The blackout occurred mere days after her appointment as acting president director to stand in for Sofyan Basir, who is currently under investigation for corruption.

National Mandate Party (PAN) lawmaker Bara Hasibuan said he would propose a motion to summon PLN directors to a hearing with House of Representatives Commission VII, which oversees energy, mineral resources, research and technology, and environmental affairs. 

"There must be clear accountability. Our law dictates a single supplier for our electricity network – PLN. So indeed, our dependence on PLN's performance is huge, but PLN has many weaknesses," Bara said, as quoted by Detik.com.

He added that the 2009 Electricity Law allows consumers to claim compensation for losses they incur during blackouts.