Millions of people in Indonesia’s remote locations are accustomed to a 12-hour-per-day inconsistent electrical supply. These communities are fighting an uphill battle to enhance their well-being, with schoolchildren studying by candlelight at night and health centres not operating at full capacity.
However a newly launched UN-led effort could change that, thanks to a group of Indonesians called “energy patriots” who have been entrusted with increasing the use of clean energy resources with the purpose of enhancing access to healthcare, education, and economic development in rural areas.
Ristifah, a 29-year-old environmentalist, is one of 23 energy patriots who will collaborate closely with communities as part of the UNDP’s clean energy project. The five-year project intends to install solar panels on some of Indonesia’s most remote islands.
With only three hours of electricity every day Ristifah learned to cope with a low electricity supply firsthand as a child growing up in a rural village.
Ristifah and her colleagues felt shut off from happenings in the rest of Indonesia due to restrictions on when they could charge their phones and use the internet.
Ristifah and her colleagues will now live in their assigned villages for a year in order to develop the infrastructure for solar energy generation. They are responsible for assisting the community in determining electricity prices, communicating with contractors, recruiting operators and technicians, and assisting local renewable energy service providers in the management of new power plants.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, urgently requires clean energy capacity: the country’s rapid economic progress has lifted millions out of poverty over the last decade, but it has also drastically increased energy consumption.
The government has promised to phase out all coal-fired power plants by 2055, yet 30 million people out of the country’s 267 million inhabitants lack basic access to electricity.
Although only a fraction of Indonesia’s total unmet needs, Ristafah and her colleagues will oversee the installation of 1.2 MW off-grid solar power plants, which will provide electricity for around 20,000 people in remote villages; while this is only a fraction of the country’s total unmet needs, the programme serves as a model for rural development that goes beyond basic socio-economic support.