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Indonesia’s Geothermal Energy

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Hot steam from underneath the earth is a source of energy. It is called geothermal energy which can be used to turn the turbines and produce electricity.
Indonesia sits over large reserves of geothermal energy, but taps very little of it. The very fact that the country has 130 active volcanoes is indication enough that a lot of steam is churning underground and is waiting to be tapped for use. Sometimes the volcanoes erupt spewing great amount of smoke and lava and wreak havoc in several of the country’s islands. The most devastating of them erupted in 1883 in Krakatoa and killed 36,000 people.
If one walks into mountains and jungles of Sumatara, Java and other island of Indonesia, the columns of steam could be seen rising from the warm mud.
While it may spell disaster occasionally, it points to availability of a source which is vast and has the potential to supply 28 gigawatts of energy to the country. This is roughly equivalent to 12 billion barrels of oil.
But the country’s planners have not paid much attention to tap this source of energy. Only about four per cent of this potential is being harnessed. The country commissioned its first geothermal power plant at Kamojang about 30 years ago. This is just a fraction of what it can really tap to reduce its dependence on oil which it imports at a rate of 400,000 barrels a day. Its neighbouring country Philippines uses 33 per cent of its geothermal resources while Iceland produces nearly a fourth of its power from geothermal resources.
Indonesia was an oil exporter till a few years ago. Now it imports oil and has quit its membership of OPEC.
Geothermal energy is a clean and renewable source of energy which does not emit any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But the planners have not paid much attention towards its exploitation. If all its plan to tap the geothermal sources are implemented, the country will be generating just about 12 per cent of its power needs from this source by 2015, which is a gross underutilization of a resource that it is endowed with.