Updated: 08/27/2014 02:52 | By Agence France-Presse

Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

The Indonesian parliament on Tuesday passed a long-awaited law to bolster the geothermal energy industry and tap the power of the vast archipelago's scores of volcanoes. 


Indonesia passes law to tap volcano power

Mount Sinabung volcano as smoke and ash fill the air, in the Karo district of Sumatra island on August 14, 2014 - by Sutanta Aditya

Made up of thousands of islands stretching from the Indian to the Pacific Oceans, Indonesia is home to some 130 volcanoes and is estimated to hold around 40 percent of the world's geothermal potential.

However it produces only a tiny fraction of its energy by converting underground heat into electricity, and lags far behind others such as the United States and the neighbouring Philippines.

Red tape and legal uncertainty have long held back the industry and obstructed much-needed investment, but the government hopes the new law will speed up the development of the sector.

Most importantly, it stipulates that exploration for geothermal energy and development of plants is no longer considered mining.

It was regarded as such previously, which meant the industry faced problems working in Indonesia's vast tracts of protected forest, where there is much geothermal potential but mining is illegal.

The law also stipulates higher prices for electricity produced by geothermal, following complaints from companies developing plants that tariffs were not enough to cover the high cost of production.

"Indonesia's need for energy keeps increasing," lawmaker Nazarudin Kiemas, who headed a parliamentary committee on the new law, was quoted as saying on the legislature's website.

"There is abundant potential for geothermal energy."

Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono must sign off on the new law, but that is expected to be a formality.

Indonesia is estimated to have more than 28,000 megawatts of geothermal potential but is currently producing just over 1,300 MW of its electricity from the clean source. 

Most of its electricity comes from coal and oil. 

High cost has long been one of the major obstacles. A geothermal plant costs about twice as much as a coal-fired power station, and can take many more years in research and development to get online.

But once established, geothermal plants like the one built in Kamojang on the main island of Java in the 1980s can convert the endless supply of volcanic heat into electricity with much lower overheads -- and less pollution -- than coal.

Yudhoyono has also focused on geothermal as part of his plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. 

Indonesia is the world's third-biggest greenhouse gas emitter due its use of dirty fuels to produce electricity and to rampant deforestation.

Latest Photo Galleries on xinmsn

NEWS VIDEOS

MORE NEWS VIDEOS

facebook recommendations

LIVE NEWS RADIO STREAMING

  • 938 Live

    938LIVE is Singapore's only English news and talk station which transmits round the clock with an engaging and enticing spread of programmes on current affairs, health, business and lifestyle as well as news every half hour until midnight.

  • Capital 958


    95.8FM城市频道的前身是"第三广播网"。上个世纪30年代末,新加坡就有中文广播,一路走来经过不少政治,社会局势的改变,中文广播在本地一直扮演举足轻重的角色。