JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Indonesia continues to push for the use of eco-friendly energy in a bid to reduce its reliance on fossil fuel, and one of the options to slash carbon emissions is utilising solar panels.
Indonesia’s state coal miner PT Bukit Asam Tbk (PTBA) is planning to set up a 100-megawatt capacity solar panel in the former coal mining area the company once ran in Ombilin, Sawahlunto, West Sumatera.
PTBA will later supply its solar-based electricity from its upcoming solar panel to state-electricity company PT PLN, said PTBA Chief Director Arviyan Arifin at the end of last month.
Private companies such as Coca-Cola Amatil Indonesia have also been using what has been dubbed the largest rooftop solar panels in its supporting facilities in Southeast Asia.
Solar panels can be the best alternative energy source to fulfil Indonesians’ need for electricity, as the demand for electricity rises between 10 and 15 per cent a year.
Despite Indonesia’s huge potential for solar energy — around 112.000 GWh based on the energy ministry data in 2012 — only a minuscule 0.05 per cent has been utilised.
What is a solar panel?
A solar panel is a device with a solar cell that can convert the sun’s light into electricity through the photovoltaic effect.
The solar panel usually lasts for 20 years. During the period, the efficiency of a solar panel does not decrease significantly.
Such a device can save energy and cut emissions. However, most solar panels’ efficiency level is less than 20 per cent.
Despite the decrease in the price of a solar panel, the price is still relatively high. The installation of rooftop solar panels costs around Rp 18 million.
Obstacles in the development of solar panels
Indonesia is rich in solar energy potential. However, the development of solar energy in Indonesia faces several challenges.
“Several obstacles are halting Indonesia’s solar panel development. Solar panel manufacturing requires relatively high costs, and we still have problems with access to efficient technology. Also, there are problems related to infrastructure access, electricity transmission, and constraints related to the land release, as well as our regulation on renewable energy,” energy expert Bisman Bhaktiar told TOC via WhatsApp messaging.
Elrika Hamdi, a researcher at the Institute for Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), similarly told Kontan last year that the development of network-connected solar panel is delayed by obstacles.
For example, the BOOT (Built, Operate, Own and Transfer) will entail the return of ownership of the project to PLN after the contract expires, which would reduce the economic value of solar panels.
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) claimed that the ministry’s regulation on the use of a rooftop solar panel by PLN consumers has pushed the numbers of rooftop solar panel users to 181 per cent.
The ministry said that in Bali, for example, all houses, government offices, commercial buildings with a coverage of 500 square metres or more will be required to use a rooftop solar panel from 2021 to 2024 based on the province’s governor regulation.
Jakarta is following suit by issuing a governor’s instruction related to solar panels.
Mr Bisman explained that the plan of solar panel development is targeted to reach 366.5 megawatts in capacity this year, 7510.8 megawatts in 2021 and 2023 megawatts in 2025.
“All those targets will be achieved if there is a synergy involving all related stakeholders, from the central government to state-owned companies,” Mr Bisman stated.
In Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara, there are 12 solar panel projects with the capacity of 78 megawatts, while in Maluku province, there is only one such project with 0.5 megawatts capacity.
Next year, Sumatera is expected to have projects with a total of 5.8 megawatts, Mr Bisman said as he wrapped up the interview.