The Limited Option of Clean Energy for Remote Area Residents

Consumers can choose cleaner energy sources, but what if the choice is minimal? Or even none at all?

The government’s commitment to promoting renewable energy (RE) in Indonesia dates back several years. Furthermore, the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius makes the Indonesian government more serious about shifting fossil energy to cleaner energy by focusing on developing the electricity sector with renewable energy. At the same time, based on the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) assessment for the last 2 years shows that the Indonesian government’s policies, commitments and emission reduction targets are rated Highly insufficient or even lead to rising, rather than falling emissions.

With a considerable gap between the 2025 target and the results of the CAT Indonesia assessment showing inconsistencies with the Paris Agreement, boosting energy transition must continue to be pushed to a higher achievement rate, given the gap that is quite far from the “big” target of 23%. The government’s participation in enacting more ambitious policies and objectives in the energy transition is expected to breathe new life into cleaner energy policies for the community as the end customer.

The energy transition can, in reality, give Indonesian citizens optimism that there are cleaner and more sustainable energy sources for usage than fossil energy, energy with lower emission quality. Inclusiveness in accessing energy for all communities, especially in remote areas, is an important point in the energy transition carried out.

Is Diesel Still a Good Choice?

As is generally the case in the Adonara Island area, East Flores, NTT has power outages, diesel-fuelled generators and PLTD (Diesel Power Plant) are still “best friends” of residents there, at least for the last 4 years. Power outages that occur 2-3 times a day, for an unspecified period, make people with a “better economy” priority to have private generators. Then, what about those who do not belong to that group? Light from candles will be the main lighting in their house, or, they can enjoy electricity access from a neighbour’s generator if they are lucky enough.

The 62 units of the total 85 PLN power plants in the 2021-2030 RUPTL show the general usage of diesel power plants in NTT as a solution for delivering energy from the government. Diesel-based plants have often been used as a solution by the government to provide electricity in areas that are difficult to access. Indeed, the abundance of renewable energy types available can assist individuals in selecting greener energy sources, both small-scale (for example rooftop solar PV, biomass, and micro-hydro) and large-scale plants (hydropower, ground-mounted PV, geothermal).

In addition, this can also overcome PLN’s problems in the mobility of installing electricity networks in remote areas due to several things, including difficult location access, locations far from the existing grid and road infrastructure that has not been supported.

Capacity Development and Sustainability

If we only rely on outsiders for maintenance, especially in rural areas—which has always been one of PLN’s toughest problems in creating access to electricity—the ease of access and diversity of renewable energy growth sources will inevitably be obstructed. Without excluding the government’s right to provide electricity evenly to the community as stated in Article 2 paragraph (2) of Law 30/2009 on Electricity, the role of local communities as consumers is very large in helping the sustainability of renewable energy development.

The government should encourage local community participation in technical aspects of RE development so that in the future, local communities as final consumers are not only “recipients,” but also “experts,” with the potential to become “creators” capable of providing energy on their own.

The big knowledge gap in local communities for technical problems should be filled with capacity development by the government and expert partners with a sufficient period so that the community can be independent or with less supervision from the central, not only 1 span short program and then not continued in the next period.

One example of capacity development applied to local communities by the government and experts is The Patriot Energi program. By approximately 1 year of the program, energy independence can be increased in the community base. With a specified time, the possibility of areas that have not been fully independent should exist. However, the expectation of local communities who can explore and utilize renewable energy more deeply with qualified technical capabilities far outweighs these doubts.  It is not improbable that in the future, renewable energy technologies will be created by distant villages where the only access to electricity was provided by non-clean energy.