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Cablegate: Maluku: Electricity Woes Plague Ambon

VZCZCXRO3718
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0115 3350816
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010816Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0489
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0499
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0223
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0191
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0512
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SURABAYA 000115

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG ECON ID
SUBJECT: MALUKU: ELECTRICITY WOES PLAGUE AMBON

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accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Technical and maintenance problems at Ambon's
power plants have left the island without electricity for up to
14 hours a day. While repairs are expected to be completed
soon, long-term development needs require increased electricity
capacity. Planned Ambon projects are plagued by land ownership
disputes. The provincial government hopes to develop
alternative energy to provide electricity to the entire
province, but there are no firm plans in place to do so. END
SUMMARY

10 Hours of Electricity a Day
----------------------------

2. (SBU) For the past two months, Ambon Island, home to the
capital of Maluku province, has regularly experienced blackouts
of up to 14 hours each day. The maximum capacity of the two
aging diesel power plants that supply electricity to the island
equals Ambon's peak demand of32 MW. Other islands in the
province receive electricity from other plants but face similar
shortages. In September 2009, both of these plants began
experiencing severe technical problems, severely limiting their
total actual capacity, leading to the extended blackouts.
According to the State Electricity Company (PLN), the age of the
plants has made finding replacement parts difficult. PLN claims
to have found a firm in China able to create the parts; they
expect to have the plants fully functional again in December
2009.

3. (SBU) Lutfi Sanaki, a member of the Maluku Provincial
Parliament, said that this electricity crisis impacts business
activity and handicaps the provincial government's efforts to
attract investment. However, the Maluku Vice Governor, Said
Assagaf, said that he didn't think this "temporary problem"
would negatively impact long-term growth. He pointed to the
province's six years of economic growth over 4% and argued that
the power plant would be fixed in time to allow 2009's growth to
match that. However, he added that in order to meet future
demand, the province needed to provide greater electricity
production capacity.

4. (SBU) In the medium term, PLN plans to build a new 34 MW
coal-fired power plant in 2010 to supplement the two existing
plants servicing Ambon. However, Suhfi Madjid, a Member of the
Maluku Provincial Parliament, expressed doubts that the project
would be completed on time. He pointed out that the project has
already been delayed several times due to budget problems and a
land ownership dispute involving the plant's planned location.
A planned geothermal plant to provide electricity to the
province faces similar ownership issues. Anton Lailossa, the
head of the Maluku Province Economic Bureau (BAPPEDA), added
that once the ownership dispute is settled the geothermal
project would take at least two years to be completed.

Hopes for Renewable Energy
-----------------------------

5. (SBU) Anton said that, in the long term, the province hopes
to develop renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal and
tidal power to provide electricity to the province as a whole.
He said that BAPPEDA has already identified a site for a
geothermal plant (see above) and that the Maluku Province plans
to cooperate with other island provinces to develop tidal
energy. The Maluku government met with governments from seven
provinces (Maluku, North Maluku, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa
Tenggara, Riau, Bangka Belitung, and North Sulawesi) in November
2009 to discuss a plan to develop this potential energy source.
However, they encountered difficulty formulating a plan of
action since no one in Indonesia has experience with tidal
energy projects.

6. (SBU) Some question the viability of these alternative energy
plans. Suhfi Madjid, described both geothermal and tidal power
as "political ideas" without any clear implementation plans.
Anton noted that Maluku Province cooperated with a Russian
company in 2007 to develop a wind power plant. However, the
turbines fell apart when they were first switched on.
Similarly, Anton said that while the central government provides
equipment to the province for solar energy every year, the
equipment is fragile and does not last long enough to be useful.

MCCLELLAND

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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