PLN rules out sabotage as cause of Indonesian power outage

22 August 2005 – Large areas of the Indonesian Islands of Java and Bali suffered power blackouts last Thursday. State electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) has said that terrorism was not suspected.

The blackout prompted the mobilisation of thousands of police in the capital, a city of 10 million people. Travellers were stranded as electric trains lay idle in Jakarta, while many office buildings and hotels switched to back-up generators.

Officials said the cause of the disruption was not known. But rising power demand in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and home to 220 million people, has outstripped supply while fresh investment in new power plants and transmission lines has lagged.

PLN said the disruption to the Java-Bali interconnection network, had caused some major power plants in the region to shut down, reducing power supply. About 120 million people live on Java.

“There was disruption in the interconnection networks. Since the big power plants are sensitive, the disruption in the network caused them to shut down,” Eddie Widiono, PLN president director told reporters. “The power has been gradually recovering.”

A similar-sized outage occurred in September 2002 and officials said the failure of a circuit breaker in the same network caused that blackout. The outage lasted two days.

Mulyo Aji said at least three major power plants on Java – Paiton, Muara Karang and Suralaya – were down on Thursday.

High global oil prices have seen Indonesian authorities introduce various power-saving schemes in recent months, including rolling blackouts in the capital and other cities.