Ministry Boasts 9m More Homes on Power Grid, but No Promises of Service

BY :RANGGA PRAKOSO

JANUARY 21, 2015

Jakarta. More households in Indonesia are connected to the power grid now than a year ago, but the rate is still far off the government’s target of 97 percent electrification.

The number of Indonesian households without a connection to the power grid dropped 47 percent last year due to network expansion efforts, according to Jarman, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry’s director general for electricity. Jarman said 9 million households were added to the power grid last year, while  10 million still remain off.

But many of those newly “electrified” households may still be left in the dark: The ministry’s boast of new household power grid connections comes with the important caveat that there’s no guarantee of actual electricity service, with any degree of reliability, at the other end of the light switch.

Patchy power service with unpredictable hours remains a chronic problem in many parts of Indonesia’s vast, 17,000-island archipelago — particularly in remote or sparsely populated areas dependent on diesel generators of which the fuel must by brought in by ship.

The nation’s electrification ratio for 2014 stands at 84.1 percent — up from 80.4 percent a year earlier and 76.2 percent in 2012 — according to a report by state utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara.

Yet, the government see it is unlikely to repeat the similar feat this year, with most of remaining areas that has yet to connect to electricity are sparsely populated.

Significant regional disparities in electrification persist. For example, only 43 percent of households in Papua are connected to the power grid, Jarman said. “The challenge in Papua is vastness of its area,” he said.

The easternmost island is home to 3.6 million Indonesians, with a population density of about 10 people per square kilometer, according to the Central Statistics Agency’s 2010 census.By comparison, Java, the world’s most populous island, packs 940 people per square kilometer.  Jarman said that the government aims for an electrification ratio of 85.2 percent this year.

President Joko Widodo has set an ambitious target to connect 97 percent of the country’s households to the power grid by 2019 and boost power consumption to 1,200 kilowatt hours per capita in the next five years from 843 kilowatt hours now.

The government also aims to add 35,000 megawatts of electricity capacity from 2015 to 2019 to catch up with rising demand. Indonesia currently has total installed capacity of 53,300 megawatts.

Private companies can build power generators, but they have to sell the electricity to PLN, which holds monopoly rights on distribution.

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