CASE STUDY Power Generation

Bringing power to Indonesia's communities: mtu delivers electricity to the most remote regions

Posted on February 20, 2017

As Indonesia emerges as a leading developing economy, it faces a crucial challenge in its drive to bring a modern lifestyle to all of its citizens: supplying a consistent supply of power to its most isolated parts. To accomplish this, Indonesia’s state owned electricity provider – Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) – turned to mtu.


Indonesian villagers in Fakfak and Kutacane


12-cylinder Series 1600 engines for continuous power supply



Fakfak and Kutacane, Indonesia

The increased access and availability of electricity in Fakfak has transformed people’s living standards.

Mr. Sugiri - Branch Manager PLN Fakfak

Indonesia – The 2010-2011 World Economic Forum Competitiveness Report ranks Indonesia as having one of the lowest levels of infrastructure in the world while also observing that power supply is a crucial factor in laying the foundation for future growth and quality of living. Responsible for managing the nation’s power supply, PLN has been tasked with the challenge of increasing output to meet the needs of Indonesia’s rapidly rising demand for electricity. To supplement PLN’s undertaking, the energy company relies on mtu branded engines from the German Tognum Group, the specialist for propulsion and power solutions. mtu in Asia is the business Unit for sales and services of mtu branded engines for distributed power generation systems.
The main challenge in delivering power across Indonesia is overcoming its vast and rugged terrain in remotely positioned villages with extremely limited infrastructure. By utilizing mtu Series 1600 engines to supply 24/7 nonstop power, even the inhabitants in the most remote regions, who previously were unable to receive even a trickle of electricity, now enjoy a steady stream of power. Two of these villages are Fakfak and Kutacane.

Providing Power to Fakfak

Fakfak is located in West Papua, Indonesia. The regency is overwhelmed with challenging mountainous geographical conditions, poorly maintained roads and its remote location has curtailed the penetration of modern electricity services to its almost 69,000 inhabitants. For years, Fakfak’s rolling power blackouts were part of the daily routine for locals and consequentially adapted their lifestyles to a consistent lack of power. The entire region has remained reliant on a traditional agrarian way of life. Previously, the region depended on power plants from neighbouring regions, but this method proved ineffective in supplying consistent and dependable electricity. In 2010, mtu installed six 12V Series 1600 engines capable of producing 634 kW each at 50 Hz and since then have been running on a 24/7 basis to sustain Fakfak’s 2.4MWh peak demand.

Transforming Lives for Fakfak Villagers

“The increased access and availability of electricity in Fakfak has transformed people’s living standards,” explains Mr. Sugiri, Branch Manager PLN Fakfak. Many in the community have reported that the installation of mtu’s engines have particularly had a notable impact with the students’ education, allowing them to continue their study into the evening, a previously unfeasible activity, as well as having access to computers. Yulianus, the father of five children, further emphasized, “Previously, we relied on light from lanterns, but with the energy generated from mtu’s engines it has become much easier and more convenient for my children to read under a bright light without having to worry when the oil is going to run out.” The newfound confidence in expecting and experiencing consistent energy has also resulted in a rise of small businesses and local investment, crucial elements to the development of the village’s infrastructure and lifestyle.

mtu Series 1600 Engines

mtu Series 1600 engines are characterised by their performance, reliability and economy with an outstanding capacity for load acceptance – meaning the unit can quickly supply a desired output level whenever necessary. Furthermore, the revolutionary vibration characteristics make the engines ideal for use under extreme conditions – in Indonesia this means year-round tropical and humid weather. In addition, the engine has low fuel consumption thanks to the common rail fuel injection system which delivers optimal fuel quantity with the precise control of fuel injection timing. “mtu’s own proprietary Engine Control Unit ADEC (Advanced Diesel Engine Control) specializes in monitoring the operating states of the engines and it triggers shutdowns to protect the engine if the critical operating limits are breached,” explained Lawrence Chong, Senior Engineer for mtu, Tognum Asia. The maintenancefriendly engine design keeps the need for routine maintenance to a minimum, effectually decreasing engine downtime while enabling the highest level of availability. Besides the necessary maintenance work, the engines only stop working for oil changes, which take place once every 500 hours, or every 25 days.
“The Series 1600 engine electronic interface – SMART Connect – offers the possibility of remote troubleshooting. It saves precious travelling time and reduces engine downtime,” Chong says. The low fuel cost – which is a large part of the total cost of ownership – and low maintenance translate into nominal life cycle costs making the engines very appealing from a financial perspective. The other aspect of mtu Series 1600 engines, which is particularly appreciated by customers, is its industry standard exhaust emissions. “The exhaust emission data is comparable to EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) levels for the 10V and 12V engines in Indonesia,” Chong explained.

Balancing Supply & Demand in Kutacane

Kutacane, located in Aceh, Northern Sumatra, is another remote area in Western Indonesia which has provided persistent challenges to PLN in terms of delivering power to businesses and homes. Between the prefecture’s demanding topography, lacking infrastructure, and distance from Indonesia’s urban centers, daily consistent energy output in Kutacane has historically been considered a farfetched expectation. In previous years, Kutacane’s villagers only used electricity for minimal functions such as lighting, restricting their daily activities and prohibiting them from establishing businesses and receiving a modern education. As of 2004, electricity was only available during the peak load period between 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm. However, after February 2011 when mtu installed seven mtu 12V 1600 engines, the availability of steady electricity became a reality for Kutacane’s 150,000 residents. PLN in Kutacane now operates the engines simultaneously – 24/7 – to meet a steadily rising energy demand.

Challenge of Transportation

The route from Medan, the major city of Northern Sumatra, where the island’s main airport is located, to Kutacane is exceptionally challenging, with narrow hills, sharp turns and a significant distance of approximately seven hours by car. The mtu engines purchased were transported from Jakarta through the Belawan port in Medan via sea freight, and then delivered by land to the installation site in Kutacane by truck.
This specific route takes almost twelve hours in total and is dependent on variable road conditions, often caused from the frequent heavy rains. The road from Medan to Kutacane carves across the island’s mountain range, making the journey exponentially more difficult for large trucks as the narrow road can only fit two small-to-medium vehicles at a time in certain parts. Furthermore, the pebbled unpaved and unmaintained road makes it easy for truck tires to puncture or lose traction, especially as the asphalt mixes with mud during the rainy season.
Due to the difficulties experienced in travelling to Kutacane, repairs to power generating equipment become significantly more complicated and uneconomical. One of the major aspects of mtu Series 1600 engines PLN particularly enjoys is the engines’ durability and unfaltering performance. The engines provide PLN’s management with a priceless reassurance that transporting the equipment to Kutacane for emergency maintenance will not be needed.

Changing Lives in Kutacane

The electricity generated from mtu engines has resulted in a more varied use of power in the small village. Local residents have now learned to use electricity not only for TV and lighting, but also for cooking, ironing, laundry and even for setting up small businesses such as food kiosks, where people can now start using rice cookers to prepare food. One of these kiosk owners is Lis, a single parent of three daughters in her forties. “When I grew up, we had to use the watermill to power basic lighting,” Lis admits. The most significant change between the past and the present, according to her, was how she could now use rice cookers to prepare her meals and even install light bulbs to attract customers after dark. “The longer we stay open, the more money we’re going to make,” she says matter-of-factly. This is considered a major improvement and has been very well-received by all those living and doing business in Kutacane.
In early 2003, the peak load reached 2.5 MW. By 2011, Kutacane’s growth pushed the energy consumption during peak times to 8.5 MW, a sizeable increase. “The advent of mtu Series 1600 engines has greatly contributed to this increased power usage,” says Rizal Rusli, Supervisor PLN Kutacane.