Indonesia can produce 29 gigawatts of power from the 299 geothermal energy locations across the country but currently, only 15 of them are able to produce 1.341 megawatts of power, says a local geologist.
'Of the 15 exploration sites, only eight are in production,' said Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University ( UGM ) Geological Agency head, R. Sukhyar, during a geothermal development campaign at UGM's Engineering School.
Ten of them, he went on, were being exploited by state oil and gas company PT Pertamina, while five others were controlled by a joint venture between Pertamina and foreign companies.
'However, there are many obstacles, so the development of geothermal energy is taking place very slowly,' Sukhyar said.
From a business aspect, geothermal energy is different from mining, in which minerals can immediately be sold overseas.
'The government has set the price of power derived from geothermal energy at 16 US cents per kilowatt hour,' said Sukhyar.
Apart from the business view, geothermal locations are in isolated areas that are difficult to access, so the cost of exploration is quite expensive.
Despite that, geothermal energy should be developed so as allow Indonesia to become self-sufficient in energy.
'This campaign is aimed at building people's awareness about geothermal exploitation,' said Geological Agency head at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Calvin Karo-Karo, adding that higher learning institutions could play a crucial role in developing geothermal energy.
'The government should not be alone in developing geothermal energy. The involvement of the community, especially higher education institutions, is important and an activity like this should routinely be held in various universities,' he said.
According to Calvin, the Geological Agency currently needs a number of geologists to conduct surveys and seek information on strategic locations where sources of geothermal energy can be found in Indonesia.
'The Geological Agency has invited Strata 1 and 2 university graduates to conduct their research. They don't have to cover the costs; we will do that for them. They are free to choose the specific areas and we will provide the funds for the surveys and the information-gathering,' he added.
Since 2010, Pertamina has been looking for exploration sites, locating 15 working areas so far. They are on Sumatra, Java and Bali, including Sibayak Sinabung; Sungai Penuh; Dieng; Komajang; Tabanan; Cibeureum, and Pengalengan.