Indonesia’s renewable energy sources not being used

Indonesia has not yet utilized its renewable energy resources optimally because of its strong dependence on fuel oils, a National Energy Council (DEN) member said.

"The country has energy potentials such as geothermal, bio-energy, solar, wind power, micro-hydro, uranium and thorium energy which are quite big but have not been exploited optimally," DEN member Rinaldi Dalimi said on Thursday.

He said the potential of hydro-power energy reached 75,679 MW but only 4,200 megawatts of it had been used while the geothermal energy potential is recorded at 28,170 MW but only 1,180 MW of it had been used.

He said the micro-hydro potential totalled 500 MW but only 86.1 MW of it had been exploited. He said only 12.1 MW of the solar energy potential reaching 4.8 kWh/M2/per day had been exploited while the exploitation of wind energy only reached 1.1 megawatt out of 9,290 MW potentials, he said.

Commercial wind energy is one of the most economical sources of new electricity available today. Wind turbines can be set up quickly and cheaply compared with building new coal-fired generating stations or hydroelectric facilities. Modern wind power generating equipment is efficient, highly reliable, and becoming cheaper to purchase.

The environmental impact of large wind turbines is negligible compared with an open pit coal mine or a reservoir, and during their operation produce no air pollution. Because of these factors, wind energy is recognized as the world’s fastest-growing new energy source. The potential of wind energy in Indonesia is relatively low with the average of wind speed around 3-6 m/second. However, in certain areas, especially in the Eastern Regions of Indonesia, wind velocity is more than 5 m/second.

He said the renewable energy sources could not as yet be exploited optimally because the price of renewable energy is relatively more expensive so that it could not compete with the conventional price which is still subsidized by the government.

"The government`s subsidy to the price of fuel oils and electricity creates dilematic problems. On the one hand it enlightens the burden of the people with low income but on the other it increases the burden of the budget," he said.

He said the subsidy for fuel oils and electricity in 2005 reached around Rp104 trillion (US$11.2 billion) and rose to Rp221 trillion in 2008. "This happens because so far energy has been used inefficiently in all sectors," he said.

Other problems still being faced by the country is access to commercial energy which is still limited due to existing energy infrastructure shortages as indicated by the low per capita ratio between electrification and energy consumption, he said.

According to projections by the US Census Bureau’s International Data Base, the population in Indonesia will increase from its current level of 218 million people to a population of 313 million in 2050.