Thursday, December 09, 2004

A hotbed of energy waits to be tapped in Indonesia |

Sitting on some 500 volcanoes - the world's highest concentration, known as the "ring of fire" - Indonesia could generate enough geothermal energy to electrify the entire country.

By using steam generated by lava flows under inactive volcanoes, geothermal power in the sprawling archipelago could generate more than 20,000 megawatts of electricity - an estimated 40 percent of the world's total geothermal reserves.

Instead, Indonesia's geothermal generation is just 800 megawatts, as leaders have focused instead on the country's hefty reserves of lucrative fossil fuels.

This, in theory, could change in the wake of the long-awaited ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia last month, which set the stage for the global treaty to go into effect. But early signs suggest that the treaty's incentives are not luring renewable-energy investment in places like Indonesia, prompting efforts to fix the system's flaws.

The protocol assigns targets for greenhouse-gas emissions that are considered a major factor in global warming. Countries that exceed their targets can either reduce domestic emissions or buy credits from other countries. One of the ways they can purchase these credits is by funding environmentally friendly projects in developing countries under the so-called Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

This would make renewable-energy efforts like geothermal, which has languished in Indonesia and elsewhere due to concerns over expense and risk, a potential magnet for millions of dollars in new investment.


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