The Rantau Dedap geothermal power plant to provide clean energy to Sumatra, Indonesia

Rantau Dedap Drilling Equipment (Source: Supreme Energy Website)
Alexander Richter 27 Nov 2019

Global consultancy Matt MacDonald shares details how impactful the geothermal project at Rentau Dedap in South Sumatra has been to the local community both in forms of economic development but also in the social impact.

In an article shared by global engineering, management and development consultancy Matt MacDonald, the company reports on its work on the Rantau Dedap geothermal power project by Supreme Energy in Sumatra.

When the project that is to be starting operation in 2020 will go online it will provide “lasting social dividends, as well as 90 MW of carbon-free electricity.”, so the company. The plant will be providing much needed stable power supply into the grid of South Sumatra. Below the take of the company on the project and its impact.

Due to open in 2020, the geothermal power plant is expected to generate more than 90MW of electricity, enough for up to 130,000 households across the region, and to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 400,000t each year.

The nearest settlement is the small village of Tunggul Bute, home to the Semendo people whose livelihoods rely on agriculture, mainly growing rice and Robusta coffee, an essential component of traditional espresso blends consumed throughout the US, western Europe and Japan.

Until recently, the full value of coffee crops rarely reached the farmers’ pockets because the sole connection to the outside world was an unpaved road, accessible only by horse or motorcycle. Farmers had to split the income with local hauliers, on whom they depended to move the coffee for export.

A stronger, more resilient community

Before construction of the geothermal plant could begin, the main road serving the village was paved, enabling farmers to access the national market directly.

The result is that their coffee is now available throughout Indonesia. Locals benefited financially from voluntarily selling pockets of land – totalling 125ha – to Supreme Energy. Farmers used the money paid to them to buy secure titles to land, enabling them to continue and expand coffee growing as their primary livelihood.

The money also enabled farmers to invest in new equipment for grinding and packaging coffee so they could sell their product for a higher price. When supplemented with advanced training in coffee growing (stem grafting) techniques, coffee processing and marketing access, over one year, the community saw coffee yields double and higher market prices achieved for raw and processed products.

Through our in-depth understanding of the project and its setting, we provided recommendations to the plant developer and reviewed the programme of skills training and community engagement, which prioritised crop diversification – planting fruit and vegetables with a short harvest period – to reduce the farmers’ reliance on coffee as their primary source of income.

Navigating the purchase of land needed for this expansion was not easy. The Semendo community is traditionally based on a matrilineal kinship system, in which women play a central role. Land is often the only inheritance passed down to the next generation, usually to the family’s eldest daughter.

Open communication

Through regular meetings with village leaders and individual farmers, we ensured land transfers were legal, free and fair, and were carried out in line with local cultural practice.

We also took care to ensure members of the community had the opportunity to work on the new geothermal plant during construction and when it enters operation. The developer is using local suppliers for vehicles, machinery and construction materials where practicable.

Our close co-operation with the people of Tunggul Bute and the project’s other stakeholders means we’re confident that, when the plant begins generating electricity and our role is finished, we will leave behind a stronger, more prosperous community.