WWF urges Indonesia to promote geothermal energy

The WWF says that the government should focus its efforts on developing and nurturing geothermal energy, which as of yet, remains untapped.

“Indonesia has the world’s greatest geothermal energy potential, at 29 gigawatts [GW]. However, we’ve only been able to utilize 1.2 GW or 4 percent of this. On the other hand, the Philippines uses 70 percent of its geothermal potential,” WWF conservation director Nazir Foead said.

According to Nazir, nurturing geothermal energy, derived from heat in the Earth’s interior, could be of great advantage to the Indonesian government.

“Finding ways to use geothermal resources while not disturbing the environment surrounding geothermal fields remains one this form of energy’s challenges,” Nazir said.

He emphasized that destroying forests to access geothermal sites would negate any reduction in carbon emissions from a shift away from fossil fuels.

“The WWF estimates that an increase of 10 GW by 2025 would save 58 million tons of CO2 equivalent,” Nazir said.

Geothermal energy can provide electricity for some of the 60-80 million people living in rural areas and outer islands who do not have access to the national grid.

“Geothermal may not be able to provide coverage for all of the 30 percent of Indonesians who don’t have electricity, but it cannot help a lot of them,” WWF coordinator Indra Sari Wardhani said.

“Geothermal power is site-specific. It can’t be exported. It’s just for Indonesia. As a result, it can be used to protect against international energy competition. Countries who control of fossil fuels control prices. If prices are too high, we could find ourselves with an energy shortage.”

The WWF says that increased geothermal usage will also reduce the burden of heavy fossil fuel and electricity subsidies, which the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry says may reach Rp 100.33 trillion (US$10.63 billion) in 2013.

Speaking to the press on the appointment of Rudi Rubiandini as deputy energy and mineral resources minister, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he hoped Rudi would develop policies and action plans to improve the performance of Indonesia’s resource industry.

In response to his appointment, Rudi said he would focus on developing energy diversification to achieve a more sustainable energy mix in the future, amid declining oil production.

“Demand grows rapidly, but we face difficulties in catching up with the demand due to poor infrastructure. The number of oil refineries is limited, so it is necessary to build new plants. The pipelines channeling gas to the downstream sector are also not sufficient,” Rudi said.