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Sumba’s Collective Opportunities

Regulations, distribution of authority, and geological conditions are some of the challenges facing the SII project. Yet the project continue to record impressive progress with commitments from existing stakeholders and new partners alike as well as the involvement of individuals and communities. 37 MW of alternative renewable energy is ready to be harvested, positioning Sumba as a development model for Indonesia –with support from new investor partners!

Four years into the launch of the Sumba Iconic Island (SII) alternative renewable energy project, Sumba’s electrification ratio is reaching 40% –nearly 10% of it generated by alternative renewable energy made possible by the installation in various parts of the island of approximately 15 thousand solar power plants, 1,173 biogas installations, 100 wind power units and 12 micro-hydro power plants. This ratio has already exceed the 25% level at the time of the signing of the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the Sumba local governments, the East Nusa Tenggara Governor, the State Electricity Company and HIVOS.

And yet, the current capacity of 4.87 MW is still 15% from the 32.57 MW targeted in the 2014 roadmap –a consequence of a number of challenges as noted in the 2013-2014 Stakeholder Report. Ongoing negotiations between the State Electricity Company and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is one such problem. A lack of national policy for wind sector scheme is another. Lack of decisiveness on the part investors as well as geological and geographical obstacles are also hindering the harvesting of 37 MW of green energy – from water, solar and biomass– that would have been enough to supply Sumba’s electricity needs twice over until 2020.

Still, stakeholders commitment are stronger than ever with the Asian Development Bank, the Embassy of Norway, and the Millennium Challenge Account Welfare Project joining the project in 2012. The Central Sumba Regent, Umbu Sappi Pateduk, confirmed during a meeting in Jakarta (25/02) that they intended to “uphoid all that has been outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding as it benefits the people’s welfare.” Similar affirmation comes from the Southwest Sumba Regent who has succeeded in increasing access to electricity level to 30-40% through its “Illuminated Villages” program.

It is an achievement that reflects the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders. Sumba’s 650.000 inhabitants live in scattered, remote areas. Its per capita income of Rp. 2,213,104 million (2012: BPS), positioned it as one of the poorest in East Nusa Tenggara province and in Indonesia. “In Java, one electricity pole can serve 50 homes. In Sumba, it takes 50 electricity poles to connect to one house,” explains Danny Suhandi, Head of the Energy and Mineral Resources Office in East Nusa Tenggara. “If it costs Rp. 30 million to install a pair of electricity poles 50 m apart, 50 poles would already set us back Rp. 750 million!”

A huge challenge made possible by commitments not only from organizations but also individuals like Sulaiman who, as branch manager of the state electrical company in Sumba in the 1990s, spent his weekends surveying waterfalls. Thanks to his efforts the company has since constructed 8 micro-hydro installations generating a total of 1,800 kW of electricity. “The dire condition in Sumba reflect the urgent challenge to provide energy access throughout the whole province,” admits Danny Suhandi. With up to 37 MW of alternative renewable energy potentials, SII serves as a model not only for East Nusa Tenggara’s 1,092 islands but to Indonesia as a whole. Opportunities abound for new partners and investors to finally turn it into a reality. (YS/FI).

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