The Jakarta Post
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has said it plans to inspect the height of trees under state electricity firm PLN's transmission lines in Ungaran, Central Java as the trees are reported to have possibly triggered the major blackouts that paralyzed West Java, Banten and Jakarta on Sunday.
The ministry's director general for electricity, Rida Mulyana, said his institution deployed electricity inspectors to Ungaran on Monday.
"When a tree has reached 9 meters in height, it has to be cut down. However, some difficulties to cut it may occur as the tree could be owned by locals," he said on Monday. The height refers to the safe distance standard for PLN's transmission lines.
The trees were first identified as one of the potential causes of the blackouts by PLN VP corporate communication I Made Suprateka on Monday during an one-on-one interview with a local television station.
He said one of the sections of the Ungaran-Pemalang transmission line, which was crucial for transmitting power from eastern to western Java, was on fire because of over-tall trees.
"There was a force majeure situation caused by a disruption from trees that have grown beyond our firm's operating standards," he said.
Made said the height of the 500 kilovolt (kv) tower is 40 meters, with the lowest conductor height set at 18 m so that no trees could reach it.
"However, if a tree owner refuses to cut the trees, it can become a problem. We have to implement better legal enforcement, so that the safe distance standard of 9 m can be implemented," he said.
Separately, PLN West Java region director Haryanto explained that the transmission line went over mountains and through forest, making it prone to risks from nature.
"We have located the point of disturbance, but anything could happen in the field. It could happen not only in one spot, but many of them. We will fix it and resolve it," he said.
Sunday’s power outage was most likely the worst blackout that has hit Greater Jakarta and West Java since 1997, causing the capital and some cities in the regions to experience heavy traffic congestion and business and communications disruptions
Due to the blackout, PLN has been instructed by the government to compensate at least 21.3 million customers, including businesses, for the losses they suffered. An estimate of Rp 1 trillion (US$70.5 million) is to be disbursed as a compensation by PLN.