Indonesia inaugurates its first three solar plus storage mini-grids


The Indonesian villages of Merabu, Long Beliu and Teluk Sumbang, located in the isolated Berau district of East Kalimantan have, at last, gained uninterrupted access to electricity, thanks to three hybrid mini-grids – comprising solar PV and lithium-ion battery storage – commissioned by Akuo Energy, a French renewable power developer, which has established a subsidiary in Bali, Indonesia.

Until recently, the three islands, which host just over 460 homes comprising mainly farmers and fishermen, had access to electricity – from diesel generators – for a paltry four hours a day. Breakdowns and the cost of generating electricity from diesel meant the villagers could not afford electricity for longer periods of time.

The villages’ remoteness further meant that the cost of fuel was particularly high, meaning inhabitants spent up to 30% of their monthly incomes on electricity.

Community-owned, clean, unsubsidized electricity

In December 2016 Akuo Energy and Millenium Challenge Account (MCA) Indonesia – a trustee institution formed by the Government of Indonesia – joined forces to develop the three hybrid mini-grids. pv magazine presented them exclusively, and in detail, a year ago.

The project has a combined solar PV capacity of 1.2 MW, and a storage capacity of 2.1 MWh, which has been entirely integrated.

What is even more striking is that the state does not subsidize the retail purchase of electricity. Instead, the mini-grids are owned by the local communities and operated by a local board.

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“Akuo Energy has provided these villagers with training so that they have the necessary skills to maintain and operate a mini-grid and run an electricity board,” said the French firm.

Immense opportunities

Indonesia is a populous country with a peculiar geography: it comprises more than 17,508 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited and 1,000 are permanently settled. The dispersed, mountainous and seismically active geography of the archipelago is an obstacle to the development of cost effective grid-connected electricity systems, however the 1.2 MW mini-grids commissioned by Akuo Energy show there are solutions.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources said the country’s electricification rate reached 92.8% in the first half of 2017, up from 84% in the end of 2014. Akuo Energy, meanhwhile, said the Indonesian government “is targeting a 100% electrification rate by 2020.”

In January 2017, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) issued the Minister Decree (MD) No. 12/2017 on the utilization of renewable resources for electricity, altering the calculation method for feed-in tariffs (FITs) for large-scale renewable power projects.

As a result, many foreign firms have now plans to develop utility-scale projects in Indonesia.

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