From Waste to Ace: Clean Energy Utilization in Self-Sustaining Households in Indonesia.

Science shows its potential in places we least expect it. As one of the world’s most populous countries and top 10 largest emitter of greenhouse gases, Indonesia is still working to cut down its energy consumption. Having relied on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, Indonesia is exploring the possibilities of utilizing renewable energy. The importance of this matter is further stressed with the global concern of climate change and the need of affordable energy in rural Indonesia. 

In farmer households in Bali, Indonesia, a form of renewable energy, biogas, is extensively used. Thanks to the utilization of biogas, a small household there becomes a self-sustaining factory. Not one thing is wasted in these households.

The implementation of biogas in rural areas were made possible by programs implemented by government and nonprofits. In Bali, four biogas programs have been carried out. These programs are operated by Bali Provincial Agency (SIMANTRI), the Agency of Public Works, West Bali National Parks, and Yayasan Rumah Energi (BIRU), a nonprofit. The programs work by providing installation and maintenance for biogas digesters in farmer communities. The government-sponsored programs offer full subsidy, while BIRU uses a market-based approach with partial subsidies and installment credits.

As its name suggests, biogas is an energy source generated by organic matters, such as food waste, manure, or any agricultural waste. This is why rural households in Bali and other areas in Indonesia, which often keep their own livestock, is a perfect beneficiary of biogas. It is not uncommon to find a shed with pigs or even cattle in a backyard of a house. The organic matter acts as the ‘feedstock’ for the pre-installed digester — the device that transforms organic matter into fuel. Every day the farmer collects the manure from his livestock and puts it in the digester.

A process called anaerobic digestion takes place In the digester.The system makes sure that there is no oxygen in where the digester is placed to enable microorganisms to break down the organic material. Biogas, the product of this process, is connected to the house via the pre-installed pipes, fueling home appliances such as stoves and lamps. The digester is also connected to an outflow chamber to contain bio-slurry – a nutrient-rich byproduct of the biogas production process. The outflow chamber is connected to a bio-slurry pit, from which the farmers can collect the bio-slurry for agricultural uses.

Biogas utilization benefits the household in many ways. Firstly, it cuts the need for electricity and liquid natural gas, allowing cheaper maintenance of household activities. Secondly, it avoids the use of firewood for cooking, which is still a common practice in rural Indonesia. Not only that, it is time-consuming and labor-intensive to gather. Still worse, firewood produces smoke which can cause respiration hazards. Using firewood also produces more methane and carbon dioxide emissions. Thirdly, the bio-slurry produced by the system could be used as an organic fertilizer or livestock feed, helping plants and animals grow well as the household’s source of income and feedstock for the biogas digester.

To sum it up, biogas improves the life quality of rural farmers, minimizes agricultural waste, and reduces carbon emission. However, efforts are still being carried out in disseminating biogas in Indonesia. Initial cost of installing biogas could be quite burdensome, especially for rural farmer households. Low household income, high price of digesters, and the slow return of investment may deter households from adopting biogas without intervention from any third parties. Collaborations between stakeholders such as government, businesses, and nonprofits, are needed to ease such burden.

WORDS: Albertus Rheza Deniswara

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