CRIMINAL charges will be placed against people who deliberately cut electricity supplies to Port Moresby and Lae, prime minister Peter O’Neill has announced.

Mr O’Neill said members of some workers’ unions had been deliberately cutting the power supply due to ongoing disputes with management of PNG Power.

“The reason we are having blackouts over the last few days is because of human misconduct… I am taking action to bring people to justice who are causing great harm to people in affected cities,” he said.

“The chairman of PNG Power will now invoke the Essential Services Act that will enable people who deliberately disrupt our power supply to face criminal charges.”

Police would investigate claims of criminal vandalism of power and communications lines, Mr O’Neill added, saying police would treat the matter as a security issue.

“I have further directed the chief secretary to convene the National Security Advisory Committee,” he added.

He said there was more than enough power available to meet the needs of the two cities, though an ongoing lack of maintenance had further compounded the problem.

“We know that there is not enough maintenance, and despite the money being spent over the years, the required work has not been carried out,” he said.

“That is a big problem because our power network continues to deteriorate.”

Nonetheless, Mr O’Neill said an additional 25 megawatts coming in from the PNG LNG power plant would help bolster power supplies for Port Moresby, with the government planning to connect a further 50 megawatts in the near future – supplying sufficient power for the next 10-15 years.

“We have enough power to meet demand today,” Mr O’Neill said.

“The people of Port Moresby and Lae can expect the government to take a much stronger interest in the manner in which PNG Power is being managed.”

The PNG government set itself the target of giving 70 per cent of the population access to electricity by 2030 in the Papua New Guinea Development Strategic Plan, released in 2010.

According to the Powering PNG into the Asian Century report prepared by Port Jackson Partners in August 2015, 40 per cent of electricity generated in PNG at the moment is from diesel fired power stations and 37% was from hydroelectricity.

Both are used in the Port Moresby grid – where diesel dominates – and the Ramu grid, where hydropower contributes more to the energy mix.

For these two power generation options to meet the 2030 target, over 1,300 megawatts of capacity will need to be built over 15 years, set to cost over US$15 billion on the current energy mix and current costs.