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No Need for Bali to be Kept in the Dark

Editorial: With Months of Power Back Outs Ahead, Bali Update's Editor Wonders if an Easier Solution to the Power Crisis May be Close at Hand?

(10/13/2009) Sometime the best ideas come to you in dark.

I think this was the case the other evening when I sat in the dark for four hours in what was my first of what promises to be the first of many power blackout evenings expected to stretch until early December. As reported on balidiscovery.com, the repairs of a gas-powered generating station at Gilimanuk, West Bali, will leave Bali short by some 58 megawatts of the required power to serve peak evening consumption demands of 490 megawatt. [See: Dark Nights Ahead].

To their credit, State Electrical Board (PLN) officials are trying to deal with this power crisis by asking consumers to reduce consumption by a minimum 100 watts per household and scheduling a rotation of blackouts to help "share the pain" with all the various parts of the island over the coming two months. The provincial government is also reportedly examining the viability of renting a 100 megawatt supplemental generator docked on the island's shore on a large barge; a good solution susceptible to being bogged down in bureaucratic roadblocks and delays linked to funding approval.

Even more concerning are warnings from PLN officials that lives lived the dark may become increasingly frequent in the future. Already confronting a lack of power at the best of times, there will be more power shortages as other generating stations in the Java-Bali power grid come up for routine maintenance and Bali's helter-skelter rush into new development serves to make an already acute power shortage even more so. Balinese children will be forced to go to bed early with their homework undone. Local small and medium sized enterprises will suffer economically. And, at the risk of digression, if blackouts in other locales are any indication, there will be a spike in new births 9 months after the current crisis.

Apparently, sitting in the dark gives full rein to more than just enhanced creativity.

In any case, sitting in my darkened room the other night I wondered if a more readily accessible solution to Bali's current power shortage wasn't closer at hand; right there, staring us all in the face?

While this may miff some tourism colleagues in Bali's Hotel industry, we pose the question if more than enough power might be generated to cover any shortfall by the governor merely ordering all hotels with 100% power back-up capabilities to run their gensets every night between 6:00 11:00 p.m. until the current crisis passes? These gensets are in place at every major hotel and resort on the island, ready to go and easily put into operation at the instruction of Bali's Governor. Compliance with such an order is easily monitored via the control panels of PLN.

That such a solution will undoubtedly bring its own unique set of problems, can't be denied. Hotels may rightly complain that the cost of generating their own supply of electricity will increase operating when compared to paying for power from PLN. But, by adopting its rightful roles as a partner for development, the government could offer a whole range of ameliorants to participating hotels: tax incentives, fuel cost subsidies and duty-free import facilities for genset spare parts.

In any case, we think this is an idea worthy of closer examination in the effort to keep the lights on in Bali and allowing the islands pint-sized army of Wayans, Mades, Nyomans and Ketuts to complete their homework each night before the lights go out.