Indonesia seems to be a prime candidate for solar power systems (i.e. photovoltaic electricity or solar panels to you and me) since this tropical country gets more than enough sunshine year round and is divided into many island making the traditional centralized power distribution difficult and expensive. Not only that, there is a major shortage of power. In a country of about 220 million people, it is estimated that between 70 to 100 million people live without power. That's a whole lot of people in the dark.
Knowing these basics facts, why is it so difficult to "go solar" in Indonesia? There are many reasons, but for the sake of brevity it can be summarized as the problems of subsidies and duplicity.
All energy in Indonesia is still subsidized. Petrol is cheap here compared to the world market..because it's subsidized. Natural gas, kerosene are cheap..why? Because they are subsidized. Electricity is also greatly subsidized. Solar or other alternative energy system are just too expensive to install and maintain if you are comparing it to the price of PLN (national power company) power. For many is it still easier and cheaper to use a diesel generator than bother with any expensive alternative energy system. And the cost of solar systems is compounded by the difficulty in getting the proper equipment and maintenance. On top of that, most of it needs to be imported, making it more expensive than it needs to be.
Nevertheless, a large solar energy "market" does exist in Indonesia, but part of it seems to be driven by aid sponsored projects with government objectives like "having 2000 villages powered by a combination of hydro, solar, and biofuel by 2009". These are positive goals, but unfortunately they are too often undermined by poor implementation because of self-serving and dishonest government and contractor practices. If you've ever visited post-tsunami Aceh or post-earthquake villages, etc, you will understand what I mean.
But the winds of change are coming, whether you like it or not. The dramatic changes to both this island and other parts of the country, in terms of development and energy needs, as well as environmental problems, have become more obvious that it is forcing people and governmentto look for different solutions to those problems. Let's hope that these solution finnaly include effective use of solar power and other alternative/renewable energy. Who knows? maybe in a few years you'll be to go to your local electronic store and buy solar panels along with your new TV or refrigerator.