Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s climate and energy campaigner, Arif Fiyanto, says they chose this site because only 32 percent of its residents are connected to the electricity grid.
He says the NGO is very optimistic Indonesia can get 50 percent of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2030, if the government has the political will to make it happen.
Arif Fiyanto, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s climate and energy campaigner, said the island was chosen to host the project because only 32 percent of its residents were connected to the electricity grid.
“In their struggle to get electricity, they’ve had to resort to using diesel-powered generators, which are polluting,” he said.
“This is also an important island in terms of its religious significance to the majority Christian residents.”
Christian evangelists from Europe who went on to convert much of Papua’s population made their first recorded entry to the area through Mansiman Island on February 5, 1855.
Every year, thousands of Papuans mark the “Gospel Landing Day” anniversary with a pilgrimage to the island’s church and memorial cross.
Arif said Greenpeace would train residents on how to manage the new power systems before introducing them to a wider area.
Although Papua is rich in natural resources, it is the poorest region in Indonesia. Less than 31 percent of villages there are connected to the national power grid, well below the government’s target of 65 percent for all regions.
Arif said the government needed to do more to develop Indonesia’s renewable energy potential, pointing out that of the 28 gigawatts it held in geothermal energy potential, the country had only managed to exploit 3 percent.
“We’re very optimistic that Indonesia can get 50 percent of its energy supply from renewable sources by 2030, provided that the government has the strong political will to ensure this,” he said.
He added that eastern parts of the country, particularly Papua, held plenty of potential for wind power, and also said other parts of the country should be made to develop their own potential sources of renewable energy.
“In Java, micro-hydroelectric schemes would work best, while in Aceh, waves would be a huge potential for energy generation,” Arif said.
For Papua, solar and wind are the best sources. These sources of power are much more reliable than fossil fuels. Unggul Priyanto, the deputy for information technology, energy and materials at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), said solar energy was a viable option for much of the country because of its location straddling the equator.
“However, the potential for wind power isn’t so good,” he said. “Although there are places with strong winds, such as East Nusa Tenggara, there’s little chance this can be harnessed for energy.”
He added that generating energy through wind power required sustained wind speeds of more than six meters per second, while winds here averaged only around three meters per second.
Indonesia’s best bet for renewable energy, he said, was geothermal energy, given the spread of tectonic activity from Sumatra to Papua.