Indonesia has set a target of developing 9.6GW of geothermal generation by 2025, almost seven times more than it has now, and a little less than three times as much as the US, the present leader for installed capacity.
The target was set by Arcandra Tahar, the deputy minister for energy, during a visit to the main Javanese site of Pertamina Geothermal Energy (PGE), the subsidiary of a state-owned energy company that is Indonesia’s main producer.
The minister said the geothermal would provide the country’s main baseload power supply in future, making Indonesia the first country to base its energy strategy around this means of generation.
It would also be the realisation of plans that were first drawn up while the country was a Dutch colony. The first geothermal wells were drilled at Kamojang in 1926, and there are now four operating generating units with an output of 235MW.
These units are based on the slopes of Mount Guntur, one of the most active volcanoes in Java. Guntur produced frequent explosive eruptions during the 19th century, although it has since been dormant.
Despite the risks, the minister said geothermal was attractive to Indonesia’s energy planners because it was a reliable source of baseload power, and its greater use would allow a 30% cut in oil use.
Indonesia is reckoned to have something like 28GW of potential geothermal energy in some 265 volcanic sites, or around 40% of the global total. However, Mr Tahar said the challenge would be to develop it at a competitive price: as a 2015 World Bank report noted, investment in oil and gas sees much higher rates of return, which has meant that PGE has faced "a continuous battle for resources from its parent company".
The country’s total installed geothermal capacity at present is about 1.4GW.
Image: Maninjau crater lake, west Sumatra (Indrani Soemardjan/Creative Commons)