Editorial: When a Big Idea Drives a Small Island
APRIL 10, 2015
As Indonesia continues its reliance on non-renewable sources of energy, small villages in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, have shown the way for the nation going forward.
These villages in one of Indonesia’s most remote areas have managed in only four years to shift from total dependence on fossil fuels to using solar energy in their everyday lives.
The electricity used by the residents of Sumba was once heavily sourced from non-renewable energy, such as diesel and kerosene, which is shipped onto the island, resulting in high prices and a heavy burden for the low-income villagers. Because of the drastic price increase, less than 25 percent of the island’s 686,000 residents receives any electricity.
However, thanks to the sincere efforts of the international community, including organizations such as Hivos, Winrock, the Asian Development Bank and the Norwegian embassy, the people of Sumba have harnessed the potential of the island’s renewable energy sources. Now, with cheap electricity at their disposal, their income can be used for other purposes, such as higher-quality food, education and healthcare.
Sumba can show other Indonesians that they too can live green and gradually climb out of poverty — and they can do so without the help of their government. It’s this kind of initiative that must be supported by Jakarta. Sumba is not unique, as other areas across the archipelago have vast potential for developing renewable energy.
If President Joko Widodo can reallocate funds for the fuel subsidy to this effort and apply Sumba’s blueprint to other areas in Indonesia, the impact on the nation’s energy security and people’s prosperity will be beyond imagination.