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Economy thrives as Jambi’s remote areas get electricity

8 September 2018

Makmur, a coffee farmer in remote village Lubuk Bangkar in Batang Asai district, located in Sarolangun regency of Jambi province, said he was forever grateful for the development of a microhydro power plant (PLTMH) in the area, which has helped him develop his business.

Before electricity reached the mountainous area located some 200 kilometers from the capital Jambi, Makmur could only process coffee beans from his 2-hectare farm during daylight.

“It was very dark back then at night as we only used kerosene lamps. Such conditions limited our movements,” the 32-year-old said, adding that now he could process the beans whenever he pleased.

In addition, the coffee farmer now uses machines to process the beans into coffee powder, adding value to his products.

If previously Makmur sold coffee beans for Rp 22,000 (US$1.45) per kilogram, he now sells ground coffee for Rp 50,000 per kg.

A banana chip producer in the village, Dewi Susanti, echoed Makmur’s statement, adding that she could finally expand the market for her products with her new packaging machine.

With more attractive packaging, Dewi said she was upbeat that sales would increase outside the village. She had planned to distribute her products to the regency’s market and sell them at a higher price of Rp 10,000 per package. Previously, the 35-year-old sold the chips inside the village for Rp 1,000 per small package.

Lubuk Bangkar, one of the poorest villages in the province, gained access to electricity just this August thanks to a project backed by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the National Alms Agency (Baznas) and Bank Jambi. The institutions and organizations developed a PLTMH through a blended financing scheme.

Some Rp 4.8 billion from the alms collected by Baznas and another Rp 3.76 billion from Bank Jambi’s corporate social responsibility fund was disbursed to develop a new PLTMH in Lubuk Bangkar and revitalize three existing PLTMHs in the isolated villages of Ngaol, Air Liki and Air Liki Baru in Tabir Barat district.

The Lubuk Bangkar PLTMH has a capacity of 60 kilowatts (kW), while the other three power plants have capacities of 40 kW each. In total, the plants electrify at least 803 households comprising of around 4,448 individuals.

National Development Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, who attended the kickoff ceremony to mark the power plants’ operation in Lubuk Bangkar on Wednesday, said he hoped the electrification could improve the living conditions of residents in the four villages. “With the electrification, children can study longer and health services can be carried out at the maximum level. Most importantly, the infrastructure can be used to develop the economy of the local people,” Bambang said.

The minister said he realized that the villages had great economic potential through their coffee, rubber and coconut industries. The electrification was expected to provide added value to the commodities.

The blended finance scheme, Bambang further said, could be an example to develop similar projects in other unelectrified regions to help the country achieve its target of 97.5 percent electrification by 2019.

Jambi’s electrification rate stood at 95.55 percent by the end of 2017, Jambi acting governor Fachrori Umar said separately. Of the total 886,600 households in the province, around 39,000 do not yet have access to electricity.

“Most of the unelectrified households are located in remote areas, which state electricity firm PLN’s network cannot easily access,” Fachrori said. “Therefore, we plan to use renewable energy to electrify the areas, just like in Lubuk Bangkar,” he added.

Indonesia has targeted renewable energy to comprise 23 percent of the national energy mix by 2025, compared to the current amount at 14 percent.

Despite Indonesia’s high electrification rate, its electricity consumption per capita was at a similar level to that of Vietnam’s, and far below Malaysia’s consumption, indicating that in some isolated locations in Indonesia, electricity is unstable and not available 24 hours a day.

According to data from the World Bank, Indonesia’s electricity consumption per capita was 812 kilowatt hours (kWh), below Vietnam at 1,411 kWh and Malaysia at 4,596 kWh, in 2014.

Source: Jakarta Post – 8 September 2018