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I know a woman with a coal fired hair drier.

"A coal fired hair drier?" I hear you say, she must have biceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger's grandmother to wield a thing like that around her head to say nothing of cinders down her cleavage.

Well not really, there are a few hundred kilometres of electric cable involved. It does use a lot of power though, she has to ring Surabaya each morning
"Hey can you chuck on a couple more shovelfuls of coal? I want to blow my bouffant."
"Blow your bouffant?"
"Yes, you know, quiff my coiffure".
"Yes madam."

Power is becoming a bit of a problem isn't it? Our PLN supply is about as regular as a constipated penguin these days and the cost of solar panels would relieve the poverty in most of Africa.

But don't worry, help is on the way. Those fellows from North Shropshire have found a solution. The University of Upper Mullock has come up with a new power source that they say will meet the world's needs well into the 21st millenium.

It's a rather clever device that utilises a long spiral spring that slowly unwinds releasing its power to drive a spindle which in turn can do almost anything you wish. Some blokes in Switzerland say they've been using it for years but undeterred by such scurrilous claims the lads of Upper Mullock are soldiering on with an invention they say will take the world by storm.

It is very clean, none of those smelly exhaust fumes or chimney stacks, you don't need wires to carry it or cylinders to keep it in, no petrol pumps and best of all it's free. There is only one small downside and that is that from time to time you have to insert a key and wind it up.

Interest is developing, there is already a device to wake you up in the morning, just a couple of twists on the key before you go to sleep. Then there's a wind up radio, no more nasty environment damaging batteries, and there is news that the wind up air conditioner will be with us soon.

Honda have just announced a hybrid car that is truly emissions free. It is designed to run on the new cleaner, greener "Mullockwork" motor but also has a dirty old petrol engine in reserve just in case dad can't be bothered to wind it up or if he loses his key.

Not since the invention of the rubber band has anything excited the scientific world as much as Mullockwork.

In the meantime back to the present and Indonesia has been struggling with rolling power cuts causing dismay and frustration all over the country.

In the past few months of darkness we have seen brisk sales of generators to rich people and carrots to the poor but, after several months of difficulty, the PLN supply appears to have settled down and become a little more reliable although power cuts are continuing in some areas. The fundamental problem will not go away - our demand for power is way in excess of what is available.

In November and December a number of people in Bali were complaining that their power bills had increased even though, as far as they were aware, their power usage had not changed to say nothing of the ongoing series of power blackouts.

Checking their bills revealed that on paper they had used more power but was this really the case? In looking for explanations we have to consider could it be that electricity meters have been fooled by the fluctuations in the power supply and so have given higher consumption readings?

Back to the point and, as we all know, PLN have their troubles. So much so that on December 23rd the President replaced the PLN President Director Fahmi Mochtar with a new man Dahlan Iskan selecting a successful businessman (head of the Java Post Group) for the job. Obviously a more hard nosed business approach will be taken - good for our power supply reliability but not good for our bills. There is change in the air and new power stations are being talked about notably a geo thermal plant (at last!) in Java.

Our new power broker at PLN has another very sensible idea - to persuade us all to reduce the amount of power we are squandering.

He recently announced that power subsidies would be reduced for heavy users. Heavy users are defined as people with supplies of more than 6,600 kilowatts. There are 378,000 such users in Indonesia (from a total 39 million bill payers) of which 120,000 are in the Jakarta region (of a total 3.5 million bill payers). You can bet your life that a good number of the rest are here in Bali.

So how much subsidy are you getting and what effect will these changes make? Basically your bill is in four parts:
1. The fixed charge which is a calculation based on the maximum power allowance - 3,300 watts, 6,600 watts - whatever.
2. The charge for subsidised power which is the subsidised price per kilowatt hour multiplied by the number of units used up to the subsidised limit.
3. The charge for none subsidised power which is the amount of power used over the subsidised limit charged at the full price which is currently Rp1,380 per kilowatt hour.
4 .The above three are added to give the "Rekoning" and then tax, stamp duty and street lighting charges are added.

Here is the critical factor, the amount of power that is subsidised is currently set at 80% of the national average power use for each power supply level. According to the Jakarta Post the national average power use at the moment for people with a 6,600 watts supply is 983.4 kilowatt hours and for 10,500 watts is 1,218 kilowatt hours, any more than 80% of this consumption is charged at the full rate.

The proposed new charges are designed to punish people who use too much power. We have had it coming, PLN have been begging us to reduce power consumption for quite a while now.

In January Dahlan Iskan declared that as from the 1st January the 80% of national average power that is subsidised would be reduced to 50%, this would result in an increase of around Rp250,000 to Rp300,000 per month for high usage power bills.

Unfortunately Pak Iskan did this without consultation with the government, the house of representatives got peeved and, as a result, in February the increase was withdrawn for the time being (it would be wise to check your January bills).

We should only consider this a postponement, no doubt the request will be made, the government will approve and those hundreds of people across Bali who have power allowances over 6,600 will suddenly find increases in their bills.

Incidentally PLN have recently announced that you will soon be able to pay your electricity bills at banks and ATMs. For anyone who has fought through the throngs of people trying to pay their bills at PLN's head office in Denpasar this is very good news.

As a final comment I once knew a man who used to enjoy paying his electricity bill every month, he was so grateful that he could purchase such a useful commodity. PLN are struggling, they deserve our support and perhaps we can all help them by putting in the effort to save a bit of electricity.

Madam you can help by shaving your head.

Copyright © Phil Wilson 2009
This article or any part of it cannot be copied or reproduced without permission from the copyright owner.

Last updated on 11th December 2014 Copyright © Mr Fixit,
Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai, Gang Penyu No 1, Sanur, Bali 80228, Indonesia tel: +62-361-288-789, Fax: +62-361-284-180
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