PLN Achieving 100% Electrification: The Role of Distributed Energy

PLN Achieving 100% Electrification: The Role of Distributed Energy

Despite the apparent dominance of technologies in how we live our lives today, access to electricity remains an issue in several countries in Southeast Asia. For Indonesia, the time to fill the gap has long been overdue. As of June 2020, the country has reported a 99.09% national electrification ratio, a commendable jump from 84.35% in 2014. But it still has a few leaps to complete to achieve 100% electrification.

In the sixth episode of a seven-part series on Indonesia’s New Energy Paradigm, Bob Sahril, Director of Commerce and Customer Management at PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), Chrisnawan Anditya, Head of Research and Development Centre for Electricity Agency at Research and Development of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM), Martin Hauske, Asia Pacific Energy Segment Lead at Nokia, Laily Himayati from Hivos Southeast Asia, and Narsingh Chaudhary, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director for Power Business – Asia at Black & Veatch express confidence that such leaps can be accomplished through distributed energy systems and discuss the most practical options for PLN.

Four hundred thirty-three villages in Indonesia, 5 in East Nusa Tenggara, 1 in Maluku, 325 in Papua, and 102 in West Papua, remain without access to electricity Because they are very small and located in remote areas of the country with unfavourable topography, the energy demand is low, the electricity network is not sufficient, energy prices are expensive because electricity sources are mostly diesel-based power plants, and electricity operating hours are less than 24 hours, enumerates Anditya.
Sahril understands how challenging the task at hand is, but is confident of PLN’s solution to address this issue. Anditya likewise believes that the country has affluent resources that are yet to be optimised parallel to this goal. To be realised from investments, particularly government capital, PLN’s roadmap in achieving 100% electrification can reach 3,591 villages and consists of two main strategies: expanding existing distribution lines and using isolated systems.

Targeted at remote locations without electricity access, isolated systems involve building microgrids and using energy storage. PLN previously used diesel in the power generator component, but because of cost and logistics, it has switched to green power generation through biomass, micro-hydro, PV communal, and PV hybrid, depending on which renewable resource is abundant in the area. These off-grid versions are able to provide power to consumers without having to rely on the main utility grid.
Moreover, energy storage in microgrids is seen as an “innovative way to tackle the problem of dispersed areas,” Sahril underscores. Batteries, in particular Lithium-ion batteries, are flexible enough to balance the intermittency of renewables and can store energy from minutes to multiple hours and from few kW to multiple MWs.

PLN’s project in PLTS Semau Island uses PV, has an inverter and bidirectional inverter, and a hybrid control system, “which functions to set the operation pattern of PV and diesel generator to adjust PV and load demand.” The system uses diesel in cases when the battery runs out, and this is where the control system comes into play. As it is difficult to balance the diesel generator and PV, the control system helps to run operations more smoothly since the diesel generator automatically operates whenever the PV indicator says there’s only 40% remaining load.
Choosing a suitable energy source is dependent on two factors, namely the population and the area’s condition. In villages that are far from PLN, for example, but people live in a centralised way, an off-grid or mini-grid plus battery energy source is appropriate. But if the village is far from PLN’s electricity network and has a scattered population, it is better to use an individual or stand-alone system. Likewise, it is crucial to assess the minimum need for electricity as communities do not only need electricity for lighting but also for other productivity-related activities.

Energy sources like rooftop solar PV, communal solar PV, and backpack battery have their pros and cons. Rooftop solar PV minimises electricity snatching but it is costly and unable to operate for 24 hours without battery. Communal solar PV, on the other hand, can improve electricity generation but is also costly and requires large spaces for solar panel modules. Backpack battery, though most available in remote areas with limited access and can minimise electricity snatching, is also expensive and requires regular replacement as power capacity is proportional to its battery weight.
Innovations are on the way to address the challenges of using a battery. Anditya explains a new backpack battery they are developing which has a usage capacity of 1000Wh and 2200Wh to support 307Wh/day for households. This same battery has 10 hours charging, very light in weight, and can be transported. As of writing, funding for this mobile battery in Indonesia has already been secured by MEMR, while funding for battery charging stations as well as power generation will come from private and public investments.

For Anditya, using mobile battery lithium combined with hydropower generation is the most economical option, as this only costs 7,471.08 Rupiah (or 0.5 USD). Likewise, he believes that battery prices in the market can further go down as the implementation of a mobile battery can create a huge market and trigger investments in local battery manufacturing.
To complement this, Hauske describes Nokia’s solution – a revolutionary oil-free generator that only requires maintenance once every 1000 hours (in comparison with today’s generators that require maintenance every after 200-400 hours) and only weighs 10.5 kilos. This generator, because it’s not bulky, can easily be transported. It also does not have a high maintenance cost compared to typical generators as it only has 15 main parts and 1 moving part, thereby, reducing cost while ensuring high reliability and efficiency. Plus, this generator allows for remote monitoring. Furthermore, this generator can improve business value for PLN, particularly in increasing CAPEX and OPEX savings. Hauske, likewise, emphasises that this generator does not aim to replace wind or PV in the distributed energy system but rather complement these renewable sources.

Achieving 100% electrification in Indonesia with PLN’s strategic roadmap involving the use of distributed energy systems to reach remote areas will not be possible if not for cooperation from various stakeholders. As Hivos finds from its Sumba Iconic Island Program, which aims to provide access to reliable and 100% renewable energy in one of the most remote islands in Indonesia, collaborating with the government, PLN, and the private sector when it comes to resource contribution, technical assistance, and capacity support, among others, will push for a successful electrification endeavour that at the same time provides livelihoods to the community.

To hear a full recording of the discussion on “Meeting Indonesia’s National Renewable Energy Target”, click here.
Speakers included:

  • Bob Sahril – Director of Commerce and Customer Management, PT PLN
  • Chrisnawan Anditya – Head of R&D Centre for Electricity Agency, Research & Development of Energy & Mineral Resources (ESDM)
  • Martin Hauske – APAC Energy Segment Lead, Nokia
  • Laily Himayati – Hivos Southeast Asia
  • Narsingh Chaudhary – Executive VP & Managing Director, Power Business – Asia, Black & Veatch (Moderator)

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