Bedugul Power Plant Idea Not Dead Yet

BEDUGUL, Despite opposition from local authorities, including the Bali government, the central government is pushing for the controversial Bedugul geothermal power plant to go ahead.

According to recently appointed Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Jero Wacik, Bali’s energy needs are expected to double by 2017, and new sources of power need to be identified. The ministry is urging a review of the proposal for the plant at Bedugul.

“In Bedugul there is an electric potential of 165 megawatts that can be generated from geothermal energy at a reasonable cost, so it should be assessed as soon as possible,” said Wacik.

Bali currently has a peak power load of 681.82 MW. At current rates of increase, this is expected to reach 1095MW by 2017.

Wacik said that as much of the power used to supply Bali is transferred from Java, which leads to potential distribution problems.

A working committee to discuss power generation in Bali has been put together consisting of Wacik, Effendi Simbolon, and Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika.

Effendi said that the power deficit in Bali should be met using environmentally friendly and renewable energy resources, such as geothermal power.

However, Pastika said that the proposal for the Bedugul plant, which was first mooted in 1995 is still regarded as controversial by local residents and religious leaders. He said that the Bali authorities would need to conduct a full investigation into the concerns and aspirations of local people before giving consent.

The area which would be affected by work in Bedugul lies within protected forest areas. A proposal to conduct exploratory drilling there was rejected by the authorities in 2005, because of environmental and community concerns.

News that the national Energy and Natural Resources Ministry was once more pushing for an energy plant in Bedugul was met with concern by local environmental activists.

Regional coordinator for environmental pressure group Walhi, Wayan Gendo Suardana, said that any major project in Bedugul could have a negative impact not just on the immediate vicinity, but also on the lower lying agricultural land and forests, as the upland region is a catchment area supplying water to other parts of Bali.

“Until now the Ministry of Energy has not made a proper study of the potential energy crisis which Bali is facing by 2025,” he said, adding that the authorities should concentrate on optimising currently available supply before developing new means of production.

Suardana said that a major project in Bedugul would have a negative impact on local communities, and would also worsen Bali’s water crisis, by interfering with catchment areas and river systems.

Meanwhile, the General Manager of state energy provider PLN in Bali, Dadan Koerniadipoera said that most hotels in Bali were still receiving electricity at a subsidised rate.

Speaking during a meeting to discuss future energy provision with the Bali regional assembly’s Commission VII Koerniadipoera said that subsidised rates were originally meant for individual families, not for multi-million dollar businesses.

“This is very unfair because many star-rated hotels in Bali which are charging as much as US$1,500 a night are actually receiving subsidised electricity tariffs,” he said.