Remote Indonesian Island Turns Itself Into a Model of Clean Energy Use

Sumba Island, a quiet corner of Indonesia, is trying to turn itself into a model of clean energy use.


Rabu, 02 Okt 2013 13:31 WIB


Rebecca Henschke

Remote Indonesian Island Turns Itself  Into a Model of Clean Energy Use

Indonesia, Sumba, renewable energy, Rebecca Henschke

A quiet corner of Indonesia is trying to turn itself into a model of clean energy use.

Sumba Island is aiming to function completely on renewable energy sources by 2025.

When the sun sets here in Sumba nearly half the population is plunged into darkness.

But now an energy revolution is taking place and we are here to find out what’s going on….

In a remote village in the mountains of west Sumba… 37-year-old Rambu Cinta sits on the porch of her thatched roof house chewing beetle nut.

For most of her life she has lived without electricity.

“Before at night we didn’t have anything to do. So after we had eaten dinner we just went to sleep (laughs).”

Now her family is one of 100 households that are getting electricity from a nearby micro-hydro power plant.

Umbu Hanggar the head of the household says it increases the family’s quality of life.

“When we got electricity, the women can weave floor mats at night and we can get extra income from that and the children can study and read books very well at night.”

Some 60 percent of the people in Sumba connect to electricity.

And 20 percent out of them are now using renewable energy. That is predicted to rise to 100 percent by 2025.

A plan being drive by the Dutch NGO, HIVOS, plans to turn Sumba into an iconic island of renewable energy.  

The project was formalized three years ago with a signing of agreement between the Dutch NGO, the Indonesian state energy company and the central and local government.

Adi Lagur is the Sumba Iconic Island field co-coordinator from HIVOS.

“The reason why we are tapping into environmentally friendly energy is because in Sumba there are so many renewable energy resources. We can use solar, wind, water and from animal waste.”  

Last year a Sumba Iconic Island taskforce was set-up that includes a steering committee, working groups and a national secretariat.

And early this year the project received 1 million US dollars from the Asian Development Bank to further develop renewable energy in this part of Indonesia.

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Adi Lagur says it’s not just about saving the environmental…. it makes economic sense.

“At the moment the Indonesian government hevily subsidies diesel and there will be a time when they will stop doing that.  We don’t want this community to suffer because they can not longer afford diesel energy without the subsidies. So that’s why we need to start thinking now about using energy that is already here and part of this environment.”

We have climbed up from the micro-hydro project to up to around 600 meters above sea level and here they are tapping into a different source of energy and this time it’s coming from the wind…

“This area is not connected to the state electricity that uses diesel generators. But here the wind is strong and good for wind energy so why not tap into that?”

Amelia is a graduate from Indonesia’s top technology institute in Bandung.

Along with two of her colleagues from a local renewable energy NGO she is here to try and address the uneven development between west and east Indonesia.

“In Java we waste electricity. There are lights everywhere and they are left on here. They don't have electricity at all. At night they don’t even have a light to turn on to study. So I want to do something about it.  It's not fair. In one place we are very high class and then here it's very sad even though we are one nation.”

This project that Amelia is working on will provide two lights for 22 households …..They will also get one power point.

This man is looking forward to charging is mobile phone at home.

“At the moment I walk to the nearest place that has electricity; that’s 7 kilometers away, I wait till the mobile phone is charged and then I walk the 7 kilometers back home again.”

This is another source of clean energy… or not so clean…

Sumbanese have learnt to make bio-gas from their animals waste….

Heinrich Dengi runs a popular local radio station in Waingapu and like most Sumbanese has pigs in this backyard. 

“With chemical reaction from the bacteria of the pigs waste turns into bio-gas. And the the bio-gas is connected to the kitchen with a pipe, just like a water pipe and then we can go into the kitchen and turn on this gas just like turning on a water tap and then we can light the stove.”

Sulaiman from the Indonesian electricity company is promising that East Sumba will be using 100 percent renewable energy by the end of this year.

“My target is from the end of 2013 East Sumba will be not be using diesel energy anymore. End of this year.  For East Sumba I will not be using the diesel generator, it will just be a back-up. ”

When solar was installed in this remote village last year…these children were able to watch television for the first time.

Aside from entertainment, it’s a window into what is happening in the capital Jakarta 2,000 kilometers away, says Yunus, one of the villagers.

“We like watching the news to find out what is going on over there... It's important to know particularly in the lead up to the Presidential election next year. Before we just voted based on gossip but now we know what is going on and we can make an informed choice of who to vote for.”


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