What is the future of renewable energy in Indonesia?

Posted on July 12, 2018

Research demonstrating that Indonesia’s annual energy needs can be met by installing solar power on only 0.1 percent of its landmass has been presented to policy-makers.

The Indonesian government has committed to a renewable power future, with a target of 23 percent by 2025 and 31 percent by 2050. While only 7 percent of the energy generated was ‘green’ in 2017, research conducted by the Australian National University and Institut Teknologi Bandung demonstrates that the potential for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy generation in Indonesia is immense.

Leading researchers set out to assess Indonesia’s capacity for solar energy generation, as well as its capacity to store that energy in the form of pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

They found that only a tiny fraction of Indonesia’s landmass would need to be utilised to completely cover the country’s entire energy requirements.

“We calculated that our solar potential is enough for our energy needs for a whole year for Indonesian people, by installing only 0.1 percent of our land area,” says Dr Ir Tri Desmana Rachmildha of ITB’s Electrical Power Research Group.

“PV and Indonesia go very well together,” says Professor Andrew Blakers of ANU.

“It’s a tropical country. It has very good sunshine across the year. It does not have a winter season, which is the case for countries further away from the equator.”

Due to its mountainous landscape, researchers also confirmed that Indonesia is well-suited to utilising pumped-storage hydroelectricity technology – where generated power is stored as potential energy using reservoirs at different altitudes.

“When there is excess solar or wind electricity, water is pumped from the lower to upper reservoir,” Professor Blakers explains, “and when you want to recover that energy, the water comes back down through the pipe, through the turbine, to recreate the electricity.”

Dr Ir Rachmidlha confirms that Indonesia already has the skills capacity.

“The hydropump energy storage system requires mostly civil engineering [capacity], then electrical engineering and mechanical engineering,” he says. “In Indonesia we already have that.”

The collaborative research, funded by The Australia-Indonesia Centre, is already being presented to policy-makers.

“This data is very valuable for them to make decisions about our energy policy,” says Dr Ir Rachmidlha.

“We think it is the most suitable [energy option] for Indonesia and I have given this information to people in Parliament,” says Dr Ir Rachmildha. “Maybe it will be influencing the future in Indonesia.”

Professor Blakers hopes that Indonesian policy-makers will act to make solar energy more than half of new generation capacity by 2030, and “virtually all” new generation capacity by 2040.