INDONESIA - Java and Bali, the country's economic hubs, are heading for an electricity crisis earlier than many had predicted as delays in the operation of several key power plants are expected to curb supply amid soaring demand by industry.
State power company PT PLN warned on Wednesday that the decline in the electricity reserve margin in the Java-Bali area would reach an alarming level in 2016, earlier than a previous forecast of beyond 2018.
PLN director for construction Nasri Sebayang said the reserve margin was currently hovering at 27 per cent, already lower than the ideal level of 30 per cent.
"The margin will continue to drop significantly as there is no significant supply from new power plants while demand keeps on rising at a rapid pace," Nasri said.
According to the company's projections, the margin in Java-Bali will plunge to 18 per cent in 2015 and to 16 per cent in 2016 and 2017.
Given such low margins, PLN might have to implement rolling blackouts.
"It's going to be a crisis. We have to be careful as it will occur in 2016. We have 6,000 megawatts [MW] of power-plant projects that are supposed to be operational, but most of them have been delayed," Nasri said.
The delayed projects, according to Nasri, include three coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 3,000 MW in South Sumatra - supposed to be on stream to supply Java in 2017.
Sluggish progress in the completion of the so-called high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission network that connects Sumatra and Java is blamed for the delays in the plants' operation.
"The transmission has already been delayed for one year," said Nasri.
Other delayed projects include a 2x1,000-MW coal-fired power plant in Batang in Central Java and a 1,000-MW coal-fired plant in Indramayu, West Java.
The delay in the Batang power plant, financed and operated by a consortium led by Japanese companies, has severely impacted future power supply in Java as its first phase of operation has been pushed back from its initial target of 2016.
Set to be Southeast Asia's biggest power plant, the Batang project has long been stymied by land-acquisition problems.
Many of the country's major infrastructure projects have run into the sand due to protracted land-acquisition procedures. Landowners have regularly held out, refusing to sell unless investors pay considerably inflated prices.
The Java-Bali electricity system had 31,456 MW in installed capacity as of the end of July.