The Australia-Indonesia Centre researcher Dr Max Richter presents his paper ‘Social dimensions of island & remote community electrification approaches in Indonesia’ as part of the Centre for Organisational and Social Information seminar series.
This paper schematises social- and ICT-oriented efforts to synergise bottom-up and top-down approaches to remote-electrification in Indonesia.
Indonesia is a vast archipelagic nation-state and home to the world’s fourth largest population. With its rapidly growing economy the Indonesian government and others are focused on the 12,000+ villages that have little or no access to electricity. The Australia-Indonesia Centre (AIC) Energy Cluster’s remote-electrification activities are conducted in this context. In turn, ICT underpins the operation of remote-area microgrids, which need real-time management functionality to minimise energy infrastructure needs. Here data analytics/forecasting plus discrete optimisation enable the control of diverse mixes of electricity generation and storage technologies.
The present paper foregrounds social research dimensions of the AIC remote-electrification project. Individual small-island and landlocked case studies utilise ethnographic research, team surveys and/or practitioner reportage. These studies aim to produce deep and locally-nuanced understandings, but have limited utility for broader electrification goals and targets. In contrast, government- and business-led electrification ‘roll outs’ offer prospects for rapid, mass-scale uptakes. However, being externally driven and lacking knowledge and appreciation of highly-complex local-level situations and needs, large programs often create or exacerbate local and/or multiscalar issues and ultimately fail.
The paper seeks to schematise ICT and other enablers and constraints in efforts to synergise such ‘bottom up’ cases with ‘top down’ approaches and programs – including through policy, regulation and techno-economic considerations – to thereby contribute to the Cluster’s overarching aim of promoting ‘equitable access to sustainable energy’ in Indonesia and Australia. Integrated optimisation, planning and social-anthropological perspectives inform the AIC Energy Cluster co-led by Australian and Indonesian universities, including with Dr Ariel Liebman in Monash’s Faculty of IT:
Dr Max Richter is based in the Faculty of Information Technology as Senior Research Fellow on an Australia-Indonesia Centre Energy project, and Academic Coordinator (Indonesia) in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Monash University. Following work as an industrial technician in the Energy sector, he earned a PhD in Social-Cultural Anthropology and has been professionally engaged with Indonesia for the past 20 years. Areas of focus include social conflict in Ambon, street music in Yogyakarta, university- and INGO-led capacity-building programs and, the current project, remote-area electrification challenges and issues.