Microgrids as enablers of sustainable power system investment and decarbonisation pathways

This project sought to apply a systems-thinking based approach to sustainable investment in the Australian and Indonesian power systems, with microgrids as an enabler. It aimed to integrate techno-economic modeling with social and institutional analyses to identify the best strategies for investing in renewable energy.

The project’s objectives were:

  • To develop a computer-modeling decision-support platform and a set of reusable models to identify the best microgrid deployment strategies. 
  • To engage end-users such as energy companies and community organisations by integrating their input into the project research and resulting analyses. 
  • To integrate social and institutional factors into decarbonisation strategies to enable rapid rollout of microgrid technologies. 
  • To produce national level strategic plans for the decarbonisation of the electricity system, with microgrids and energy storage as primary enablers.
  • To develop comparative case-study methodology for analysis of socio-cultural enablers and barriers to microgrids.
  • To design and test concepts for a remote- and rural-communities socio-technical awareness-raising program on microgrid development, incorporating input from stakeholders including communities, scientists and government and business leaders in both Indonesia and Australia.
  • To explore the potential of pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) to support large-scale deployment of solar and wind generation to reduce peak power deficits and transmission/distribution losses.

The project employed interdisciplinary methods, including projecting future electricity demand and developing a methodology for modelling demand against current Indonesian and Australian power systems. A range of tools was used or developed for this project. The Plexos Energy Modelling Suite from Energy Exemplar, for instance, was used to build a whole-of-system model for Indonesia. Further tools were developed when off-the-shelf products could not perform certain tasks. These included tools to model individual household demand based on activity and demographic models, and tools for co-optimised investment in generation, transmission and storage

Another central platform of the project was the application and comparative analysis of four forms of action research. It investigated challenges and developed insights for deepening and broadening stakeholders’ appreciation of the need for systematic attention to social conditions and considerations.

 The project also developed methods of locating pumped-hydro sites in this framework and in a related project funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. A search for upper reservoir sites in Bali identified 2.3 TWh of potential storage capacity, more than enough to support 100 per cent renewable electricity for the whole of Indonesia. 

This project significantly advanced the Energy Cluster’s capacity to model the deployment of new electricity infrastructure in both grid-connected and off-grid areas in Indonesia. The socioeconomic element included establishing an integrated set of empirically grounded social research methods to help ensure successful community renewable energy provision, through marrying attention to local conditions with practical concerns around logistics and scalability.

The modelling included a focus on renewable energy and microgrids as enablers of system decarbonisation. This included consideration of novel technology such as residential batteries and off-river pumped hydro energy storage. Policy and regulatory settings and trends were taken into account, including the national energy plan and the national electricity utility’s annual 10-year investment plan, known as the RUPTL. Results include electricity demand projections, cost-of-generation projections, and renewable energy investment projections that support national decarbonisation targets. This was produced for both a national level and for an example region of North Sulawesi. 

Local and international partners included the Indonesian Institute of Essential Services Reforms, the European Climate Foundation, German energy think tank Agora Energiewende, and a range of government agencies and NGOs. The North Sulawesi study was funded by APEC and performed jointly with Indonesian energy specialist firm CastleRock, in collaboration with the government of North Sulawesi, the city of Bitung, the University of Sam Ratulangi (Manado) and the University of Hasanuddin (Makassar). 

The modelling showed that the path to renewable energy is possible and affordable. We used input data from other AIC Energy Cluster work, namely the Indonesian energy technology cost assessment, to reach this conclusion. To complement this work we have identified an almost unlimited number of potential sites for pumped hydro around Indonesia, with a publicly available detail dataset for Bali demonstrating what can be done with further analysis. We developed modelling to identify the optimal cost of solar plus residential battery storage for households of a given size and income, which could be applied across any remote and unelectrified village in Indonesia.

Research projects completed were:

  • Anthropology-led electrification research in West Kalimantan & Maluku (2015-2018)
  • INGO-led electrification research through Landscape-Lifescape Analysis in Sumba (2016)
  • Sustainability Science-led electrification research in West Java & North Maluku (2017)



Lusis, P., Khalilpour, K. R., Andrew, L. Liebman, A. (2017). Short-term residential load forecasting: Impact of calendar effects and forecast granularity. Applied Energy, 205, 654-669. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.07.114

Thomas, S., Richter, M., Lestari, W., Prabawaningtyas, S., Anggoro, Y., Kuntoadji, I. (2018). Transdisciplinary research methods in community energy development and governance in Indonesia: Insights for sustainability science. Energy Research & Social Science, 45, 184-194.


‘Social Approaches to Energy transition Cases in rural Italy, Indonesia and Australia: Iterative Methodologies and Participatory Epistemologies’ (with M Sarrica et al.) Energy Research & Social Science (July 2018)

‘Landscape-Lifescape: A Context and Risk Analysis for Nine Districts in Lombok, South Sulawesi and Sumba Island (with P Adams & G Langford). Green Prosperity Project (2017)

‘Notes on the Anthropology of Electricity in Context of Remote-area Electrification Projects in Indonesia and Other Countries (W P Semedi & A Liebman), Proceeding of the Sixth International Symposium of Jurnal Antropologi Indonesia (2016)

2015: two seminars discussing socio-technical aspects of renewable energy provision, Tanjungpura Univ., Pontaianak, West Kalimantan

2018: Completion of two Masters theses on anthropological dimensions of remote-electrification issues and challenges (UGM)

Project methods are described above and in our referenced Conversation articles, and also in our published articles:

Andrew Blakers, Bin Lu, Matthew Stocks 2017, ‘100% renewable electricity in Australia’, Energy, vol. 133, 15 August 2017, pp. 471-482, ISSN 0360-5442, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217309568 

Bin Lu, Matthew Stocks, Andrew Blakers, Kirsten Anderson 2018, ‘Geographic information system algorithms to locate prospective sites for pumped hydro energy storage’, Applied Energy, vol. 222, 15 July 2018, pp. 300-312, ISSN 0306-2619, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261918305270 

The website has additional information: http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/