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Indonesian villages struggle to get power from biomass plants

April 20, 2021

Thomson Reuters Foundation:

Cutting through the glassy water of a mangrove-fringed inlet on the east coast of Indonesia’s Siberut island, Mateus Sabojiat and Anjelina Sadodolu arrived home by canoe to Saliguma village.

Back in their house, Sadodolu lit a wood fire to boil water before her husband left for work at the local government office.

“The electric power is on only when it is time to sleep,” said Sadodolu.

The couple in their forties, who have six children, live just a few hundred metres from Indonesia’s first power plant designed to be fuelled by bamboo, one of three such facilities built to bring electricity to isolated villages in Siberut.

But almost three years after construction was completed, the Saliguma biomass power plant supplies electricity to some of the village’s 3,780 residents only between 6pm and midnight – and is currently not using bamboo as originally intended. 

Energy ministry data shows Indonesia’s electrification rate rose from 67% in 2010 to 99% a decade later, as isolated communities like Saliguma received power for the first time.

But in remote areas, that can simply mean village centres have electricity while outlying settlements remain in the dark, said Putra Adhiguna, a Jakarta-based energy analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. 

[Harry Jacques]

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