Bali’s Big Blackout: We Don’t Know Why, Says PLN

LEGIAN ~ State power generator PLN still could not explain at week’s end why Bali suffered a sudden massive blackout of up to three hours from 6pm last Sunday.

The power cut caused traffic chaos throughout south Bali and panic in some shopping centres – including Carrefour in Sunset Road at Kuta – where private generators did not come on immediately.

There were further extensive blackouts on Monday, some lasting up to six hours.

PLN Bali spokesman Wayan Redika said PLN did not know what caused Sunday’s blackout.

“We got a report that the electricity blackout hit the whole of Bali, including Denpasar. We are still looking for the cause of the problem. It could be that we suddenly lost our electricity supply from Java,” he told state news agency Antara on Sunday night.

Since then PLN has failed to offer a fuller explanation.

Bali draws power from the Java grid and has in the past experienced lengthy unscheduled blackouts due to problems on the transmission system. Normal peak demand is 450 megawatts (MW).

But three power stations on Bali – at Gilimanuk, Pemaron and Pesanggaran – are designed to produce 360 MW, enough to maintain island-wide supply on a rostered blackout basis.

During Sunday’s unexplained emergency, Ngurah Rai International Airport continued normal operations using its own emergency power.

“We have automatic electrical switching, i.e. when the electricity from PLN goes out, our generator automatically starts,” said Alex Pujiantoro, spokesman for airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I.

The airport’s emergency power automatically switches on within 10 seconds of a power cut.

Traffic lights went out throughout Denpasar, Kuta, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua and the Bukit, including on the main arterial Ngurah Rai By-Pass road. Police were sent to key intersections to direct traffic.

One Carrefour shopper, Tisa, who was among hundreds suddenly plunged into darkness at the new shopping centre, asked: “Why did it suddenly become dark? Doesn’t the store management have a backup generator?”

Other major shopping centres, including on busy Jl. Teuku Umar in Denpasar, switched to emergency generators and continued operating normally.

Meanwhile, Governor Made Mangku Pastika has turned down a proposal to generate electricity with a geothermal system, saying any new electricity generator built in Bali must be environmentally friendly, and the geothermal system did not conform.

It was the third time the proposal has been rejected by Bali’s government.

“I refused the geothermal system as well as a high-tension cable to carry electricity because plans specified them being built within Bali’s Western National Park area,” he said this week.

The proposal could still be debated in the provincial legislature. But Governor Pastika said scientific studies showed high-tension wires passing through the national park could be a risk to wildlife.

He said hydropower was a better option.

“Bali has many rivers and waterfalls that could be utilised to generate enough electricity for the people of Bali and the tourist industry on the island as well.”

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One Response to “Bali’s Big Blackout: We Don’t Know Why, Says PLN”

  1. Harald Schweda Says:

    Om Swastyastu!

    There are different problems highlighted by this blackout.

    On the one hand lokal production is too small. Bali as a self-appointed leader in sustainable development should rely on a strategy of differtiated sourcing.
    Water power is a source, but only for small stations (I assume a maximum of 20 kW per set), because of the subak system and the even now endangered ecological value of the rivers.
    Wind power besides small sets (up to 10 kW or the like) has a problem with the balinese 15m height laws. I would appreciate, that this laws are enforced in cases of hotels and shopping centers and other buildings, too. It is a trademark of Bali NOT to be a concrete desert! Maybe some turbines with a production of about 50 MW are posiible on the invisibale side of Nusa Penida.
    Geothermal energy can only be used in a very small scale like hot wellls because of uncontrollable risk of earthquake and volcanic eruptions.
    Tidal and marine current energy is a clean and promising source. A possible site is the strait between Ceninggan and Nusa Penida.

    On the other hand: negawatts are much too uncommon in Bali.
    Why do so many AC produce warmth that remains unused? What is wrong with 25 °C inhouse temperature? The usual 18 or 20 °C, the AC are set for, are unhealthy. If the humidity of the air is to high the connect AC to a hydrostatic device and use it as a dryer, which will save a lot of kilowatthours. Or just use a dehumidizer. Architecture offers a lot of solutions in case of new buildings.
    In Bali a minimum of 100.000 TV-sets is running without beeing watched. Just find the off switch and save a lasting 30 MW of capacity! TV is not as essential as sunshine regardless of some advertisements…
    When I got to Bali first in Oct. 2001 there was a surprising darkness around the island. Now Bali has a light pollution problem, esp. around Kuta and Denpasar. I think f.e. lighted advertising posters are not Balinese. They should be banned regardless of the profits, some people gather this way.
    IMHO Bali is able to attract too much buisiness and the lokal politics should start to consider that.
    Insulation is not only a theme in a cooler climate. If you start to use AC, you should start to think about keeping the cooling inside. A minimum like a tight ceiling plate and closed doors and windows will do “wonders”…

    As third problem, elektricity is too cheap, especially on the social tariffs and for big consumers. Subsidiaries for the poor should be made in other ways, f.e. a negative tax. Every consumer than will be free to spend the money on unchanged consumption or invest in energy saving and get profits on the mid-term run.
    Companies should start to get accustomned to a tariff of let’s say 2000 Rp./kWh.

    Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, Om!

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