Students protest chronic power failures in North Sumatra
Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan
University students in Medan on Monday rallied at the North Sumatra legislative council to protest against frequent blackouts in the province. The blackouts occur three times every day, each one lasting for up to four hours.The students, representing the Alliance of Students Concerned over Electricity, said the blackouts had severely affected their studies.
Protest coordinator Atlan Paruzi Nasution said many students scored badly in their tests because they were unable to study during the blackouts.
“We cannot study due to the power failures. This is unacceptable because education is a basic need,” Paruzi told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the rally.
Paruzi said interrupted study was not the only repercussion of the blackouts. He cited damages to electrical devices and losses incurred by businesses, as further reasons propelling students to take action.
At the demonstration, students urged the legislature immediately to summon officials from state power firm PLN over the blackouts.
After meeting with the students, councilor Burhanuddin Rajagukguk said the central government was responsible because it had not taken sufficient action in addressing the crisis.
Burhanuddin said North Sumatra contained an abundance of potential energy sources yet to be exploited.
“North Sumatra has lots of energy sources which the central government has not exploited thus far. If they were managed well, the power crisis might have long since been resolved.”
He cited the Sarulla geothermal site as one of the energy sources of potential worth.
He said the legislature had issued a recommendation for overcoming the chronic power crisis in the province to the central government and PLN.
“One of the proposals urged the central government, by way of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and the National Development Planning Board, to appoint a company to construct the Asahan III hydro-electricity plant,” said Burhanuddin.
The proposal for the plant, which has the potential to generate 174 megawatts of power, has been pending for a long time.
North Sumatra PLN general manager Albert Pangaribuan said the company was unable to prevent the blackouts due to insufficient power supply.
He said the current total power capacity in the northern Sumatra region was 1,130 MW, while peak demand in the region reached 1,190 MW.