Sumba Iconic Island Report: Turning alternative renewables into reality in Indonesia

The socio-cultural and natural environmental factors that will influence renewable energy use in nine rural and remote districts in Lombok, South Sulawesi and Sumba Island have been analysed in a recently published Landscape Lifescape Analysis by Indonesian and Australian researchers.

The researchers found that there is a low risk of negative impacts to the environment, natural capital, and social and livelihood systems; and if the program is successfully put in place there is a high likelihood of positive outcomes for individuals, households and communities.

The findings include a context and risk analysis of various investments, and while the study sites are in Indonesia, they potentially have implications for remote Indigenous Australian and mining communities.

Some of the challenges identified included: overcoming negative perceptions of past technology failures; stimulating demand and fostering a willingness to pay for and maintain new technologies; and the building of high-quality physical infrastructure in very remote areas—but the team concluded that most of the challenges have manageable, realistic solutions.

Dr Max Richter of the AIC Energy Cluster and Monash University was one of the full-time researchers and co-author of the report. It involved researchers and practitioners from Hivos, Winrock International, Yayasan Rumah Energi and Village Infrastructure Angels travelling together and conducting surveys, over three weeks from west to east across Sumba Island.

Their approach involves four primary components in three regions of Indonesia. These include: constructing animal dung domestic biogas digesters in three districts of Lombok and two districts of South Sulawesi; solar photovoltaic electrification of schools, including the dissemination of solar charged lanterns for school students and their families; solar powered maize and rice mills; and remote area solar charging kiosks.

Max says the findings and recommendations can help to inform renewable energy investor decisions regarding rural and remote-area locations, to ensure local-level buy-in and long-term success.

The report was published on February 27 and is one of several related to Sumba Iconic Island (SII). SII is a project aiming to create “access to alternative renewable energy (sun, water, wind, biogas and biomass), which will enable gender-balanced economic wellbeing to all.”

They’re working toward the island of Sumba achieving 100 per cent renewable energy and 95 per cent overall electrification by 2025—for the sake of the local inhabitants, and to stand as an ‘icon’ for other areas.

Max says the field surveys and write-up of the report was very much a collaborative effort, involving international technical experts working closely with locals in Indonesia.

“The field experiences and data were brainstormed and schematised through an intensive one-week workshop in Jakarta, and the results and ongoing questions placed in comparative context with existing literature,” Max says.

Read a copy of the report here.