Govt to install solar panels on roofs of 800 public buildings

7 February 2020

The government plans to install rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on at least 800 public buildings across the country this year as it steps up its renewable energy push to lessen reliance on fossil fuels.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry has allocated Rp 175 billion (US$12.76 million) to install the solar PV panels on, among others, boarding schools, clinics, orphanages, government offices and police stations in 17 provinces. All of the buildings are owned by regional administrations, which are to cover the panels’ maintenance costs.

“We need to show these administrations that solar panels are worth it,” the program’s head, Puspa Dewi, who is also the energy ministry’s renewables infrastructure director, said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

She said the allocated funds would not include the cost of the batteries for the PV panels because of budget constraints. Thus, her office would prioritize office buildings as they have higher daytime electricity usage compared to housing facilities.

Installing rooftop solar PV panels is one of the government’s many efforts to achieve a 23 percent renewable power production energy mix by 2025 as mandated by the General National Energy Planning (RUEN) road map. Indonesia closed 2019 with a 12.36 percent renewables mix, far less than the 17.5 percent annual target in the road map.

Of the 800 units, 51 percent are small with a capacity of less than 5 megawatts (MW), 32 percent are medium-scale (up to 25 MW), 11 percent are large (up to 50 MW) and 6 percent are extra large (above 50 MW). East Java and East Nusa Tenggara provinces are slated to receive the most solar PV panels: 100 each.

However, Dewi told The Jakarta Post that the solar panel distribution was still subject to change as her office remained open to new requests from regional leaders. The ministry said it expected to begin the bidding for the installation of the panels in March.

She said she also sent a letter to Indonesia’s largest offtaker, stateowned utility PLN, to prepare 800 special electricity meters for the program. Such meters differ from regular meters as the former can measure both electricity inflow and outflow.

According to the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), Indonesia was generating 152 MW of solar power as of November 2019. The generation capacity, despite being 43.3 percent higher year-to-date, is still far below the annual target of 550 MW.

“The number of rooftop solar PV panel owners has increased fourfold from 351 in 2017 to 1,435 owners in 2019,” writes IESR in its energy outlook report. “With almost 90 percent of owners from the residential sector, the sector has become a major market for rooftop solar PV [panels] in the last two years.”

PV panel owners are allowed to sell their electricity to PLN to reduce the high upfront installment costs, but a ministerial regulation issued in 2018 has discouraged them. According to the regulation, the value of electricity exported from rooftop PV panels to the PLN grid is to be calculated at 65 percent of the applicable PLN fee. A preceding regulation set buying prices at 100 percent, which gave investors a shorter payback period on solar PV investments.

The electricity bills of PLN customers with rooftop PV systems is calculated monthly, based on the kilowatt per hour (kWh) import value minus the kWh export value

“If regulations keep changing, it’s confusing. Assumptions will be different. Investments require long-term planning and need consistent regulations,” Eka Himawan, founder of a solar panel start-up, Xurya, said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, he noted that two regulations issued last year helped improve the appetite for solar PV panels among industrial clients.

Source: The Jakarta Post, 7 February 2020