Indonesia expands the grid to remote islands, but what about its climate goals?

04-Sep-2019 Intellasia | Devex | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The late afternoon sun was glaring over the remote fishing village of Kwangko in Sumbawa island. Braving the summer heat at the end of July, Anti sat outside, in front of a water tap, filling clear plastic bags with water.

Later, Anti would freeze the water bags and sell them to fishermen for 1,000 Indonesian rupiahs, or 7 cents, a piece. The water bags filled her entire fridge, except for the bottom shelf reserved for the day’s catches.

The ice packs and the fridge signify important milestones in this isolated village that’s roughly a three-hour drive from Sumbawa airport. Electricity took its time to reach this part of Indonesia. The village relied mostly on diesel-fueled generators, which provided at most four hours of light in the evenings. The lack of electricity has kept fishermen fearful of rotting fish, or selling their catch at reduced prices in the afternoon before they turn sour.

In 2017, the state-owned power company known as PLN finally succeeded in connecting the village to the grid. The Jokowi government has an ambitious goal for Indonesia: 100 percent electrification by 2024.

But the country’s energy push makes for a poor show of its climate goals. Under the Paris climate agreement, the country has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions between 29 percent to 41 percent by 2030. Yet Indonesia’s energy sector continues to rely heavily on oil, coal, and gas. The country has an energy mix of 39 percent oil, 33 percent coal, 20 percent gas, and 8 percent renewable energy sources combined in 2018, according to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia.

To be sure, the government has set a goal to increase the share of renewable energy in the national energy mix to 23 percent by 2025, and Indonesia’s archipelagic structure is proving to be an opportunity to optimise renewable energy sources. Several projects have been introduced in parts of Indonesia to showcase the country’s renewable potential.

This includes Asian Development Bank-supported geothermal, solar, and wind projects in the country. Just last year in December, a wind project in South Sulawesi province co-financed by the bank began operations.

The bank has worked with the private sector in Indonesia on geothermal projects. But it’s also currently preparing a project on geothermal with the government, said Florian Kitt, ADB Indonesia’s energy specialist.

“We’re also looking forward in helping the government [on] its energy strategy to increase renewables. What we’ll exactly do there is yet to be seen,” Kitt said.

The bank’s efforts to support the government on grid development as seen in Kwangko village also has its links to helping the country increase its renewables. Currently, renewable energy sources contribute to 2.6 percent of total energy in Sumbawa island, an increase from less than 0.1 percent in 2018, according to Firman Sulistyawan, planning manager at PLN in Sumbawa.

“Really the focus was [on] expanding the grid to provide more access to people, so increased access, and enabling PLN to have stronger grids that enables the possibility to actually include renewables,” Kitt said.

Many of the grids in Eastern Indonesia are “not strong enough” to take on large-scale renewables, he said.

The projects seem to echo ADB energy director Yongping Zhai’s statements in 2018 about the bank’s commitment to helping its member countries embrace renewable forms of energy, in which he ensured that “as we meet our own climate finance targets, ADB’s lending portfolio has no place for ‘dirty energy.” In 2017, he said the bank approved over $2 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

But for Indonesia to achieve its national determined contributions in line with the Paris agreement, at least in the energy sector it shouldn’t just focus on remote areas, as demand for electricity in these places are often much lower than in more developed regions, said Ery Wijaya, senior analyst at the Climate Policy Initiative of Indonesia.

“The contribution wouldn’t [be] too significant as the demand of electricity in the remote area is very small compared to demand in [the] Java-Bali area,” he told Devex.


Category: Indonesia

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