Jakarta wants new energy sources developed

PRESIDENT Suharto, concerned that Indonesia’s energy resources could dry up in 50 years’ time, yesterday called for new resources to be developed to meet the country’s increasing electricity use.

He argued that the country would be forced to use all its available resources if it failed to find newer alternatives.

“Obviously, this is one of the most important issues that have to be taken into consideration in the adoption of our national energy policy,” he said in opening remarks at an Asia-Pacific energy conference here.

“This is the reason that we have to continue to take steps to conserve, diversify and use energy efficiently.”

Explaining why Indonesia was giving “serious attention to the use of new energy sources”, he said its electricity demand would surge to 28,000 megawatts next century based on an annual 13.8-per-cent rise. It is now 21,500 MW.

At the same time, he warned that the country’s crude oil reserves, like in other Asian countries, were very limited. Oil provides up to 60 per cent of its energy requirements and coal 25 per cent. The remaining needs are met by sources such as gas and hydroelectricity.

While making a pitch for new energy resources, Mr Suharto stopped short of mentioning the government’s plan to build a nuclear power plant on the slopes of the dormant Muria volcano in central Java.

If approved, the plant, which has been a source of much debate and controversy, would be the first in a series of 12 with a total capacity of 7,000 MW.

In his speech, he chose to focus instead on Indonesia’s efforts to tap sources of renewable energy such as solar power for small-scale home electricity needs as well as developing geothermal and hydroelectric power. He said that the country had geothermal reserves to generate 19,000 MW of electricity but its installed capacity was a mere 300 MW.

He also noted that Indonesia had an estimated 75,000 MW of hydro-power for large and small-scale power stations but only 2,200 MW of this potential was used.

Research and Technology Minister B.J. Habibie also called for better use of energy resources in the country.

He told the 400 participants at the two-day conference that several Indonesian locations, for example, had a “huge potential” for hydro-electric power.

Highlighting the Mamberamo River Basin in Irian Jaya, he said that hydroelectric energy in the area could help build an industrial and economic growth centre.

In the case of solar power, he said that it could provide energy to rural and remote areas in the country not reached by the state electricity grid.

The government is also exploring the use of gas to meet its energy requirements. The state-owned Pertamina company said recently that it was optimistic that its huge Natuna gas project would hit its first production in 2003.

Natuna is one of the world’s biggest gas fields, with reserves of six trillion cu m.

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