Twelve Years On, Bedugul Geothermal Project Still in Limbo

BEDUGUL ~ A geothermal power plant in central Bali that was to supply almost half the island’s rising electricity needs has been put on indefinite hold due to local political opposition, officials have told The Bali Times.

The Bedugul Geothermal Project was launched in 1995, with an investment of US$46.7 million, and was to be jointly run by state power company PLN and Bali Energy Ltd, a firm established by a group of foreign investors.

However, with the crippling onset of the pan-Asian financial crisis that brought Indonesia’s economy to its knees, it was put on hold and has been in limbo ever since.

But three wells have been constructed at the site, with associated, basic equipment in place to make use of the geothermal energy in the cool, mountainous region of the island.

Since then the companies have been waiting for approval from the Bali government.

The project had also caused disquiet among the local population, some of whom objected to it being located on sacred ground.

Lawmaker I Made Arjaya, head of Bali parliament’s Commission I on governmental affairs, said there was widespread disapproval of the geothermal plant.

“One hundred percent of Balinese people disagree with this project,” he told The Bali Times.

“All members of parliament have not approved of the project, and that means all Balinese people are against it,” he said.

Members of parliament were concerned that the plant would endanger the island’s water supply and also damage the sacredness of the area, considered holy by the majority Hindu population.

“Bedugul stores the water supply for people living in southern Bali, and therefore we cannot tolerate any destruction if the project went ahead,” said Arjaya.

Bali Governor Dewa Beratha had green-lighted the project, however, via a decree issued in October 2005, saying it does not pose any environmental or planning difficulties, based on studies carried out by relevant government bodies.

And officials from six villages surrounding the project area – Kembang Merta, Candikuning I, Candikuning II, Bukitcatu, Pemuteran and Batusesa – have given their support to the development, saying the project would be of benefit to the people and did not violate the religious values in the area, according to a combined statement sent to the governor’s office.

An official of Bali Energy Ltd told The Times that if the plant were allowed to proceed, it would provide 175 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day, or 43.8 percent of its total potential.

“This area holds the potential of 400MW of power, but we planned to only exploit 175 MW,” area representative Ni Made Widiasari said.

Over the years, as the company awaited official permits and licenses to construct the plant, the only work at the site had been maintaining the wells and equipment, she said.

Widiasari said that if the project was given the go-ahead, a fully functioning plant could be constructed within two years.

“It would only take 23 months to build it, and Bali would have its own green energy,” she said.

Separately, PLN has launched its own environmentally friendly power plant in Bali, albeit on a small scale.

Earlier this month, it started operations at a micro-hydro power plant in a river in the village of Susuan in Karangasem, proving providing 25KW of power per day.

Wayan Redika, head of public relation at PLN Bali, told a media briefing it was the fist such plant of its kind in Indonesia, and came about following research into renewable energy sources in Bali.

“Before this, we have built power plants on Nusa Penida that are powered by the wind and jatropha oil,” he said.

The micro-hydro plant was being run in cooperation with local enterprises and others would be encouraged to utilize such green power sources in the figure, in order to build up sustainable electricity supply in Bali, which is frequently hit by power outages, he said.

“We are cooperating with these enterprises and PLN will buy electricity from them,” he said. (BT/RD/WJF)

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