Many people in Indonesia, like in many developing countries, have lack of access to economical and convenient energy sources. For various reasons, energy services provided by the government or the private sector are difficult to access by those living in remote areas. When accessible, the communities – mostly the poor – are burdened by the expensive price of the services, leading to an even more economically vulnerable state. Although sustainable energy services will not solve the underlying cause of poverty, its limited availability will hinder the pathway to prosperity.

In many cultures – especially the poor – women and children are assigned to do the cooking and household chores. They become reliant on traditional forms of fossil fuels and natural resources such as coal and firewood and collecting them is a daily routine which isn’t only time consuming but energy draining. The use of traditional fuel generating processes while being exposed to smoke on a daily basis, makes them susceptible to respiratorial tract infection and eye disease.

To improve the lives of poor people around the world, and as a follow up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the government of the Netherlands created a program on sustainable development that emphasizes relations between poverty and energy. One main goal of this program is to provide access to energy services for 10 million people (2 million households) through means of sustainable renewable energy, including biogas.

These past 25 years, domestic biogas has been widely accepted in Asia. Nepal and Vietnam are acknowledged as representing success stories by other countries such as China, India, and other Asian countries which have also embraced biogas. The success of these programs is due to a market-based approach, involvement of a range of stakeholders and an emphasis on quality control. Direct benefits of those programs include elevation of women’s status and improvement of family life.

In 2008, the Directorate General for Electricity and Energy Utilization of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Government of Indonesia, requested the Royal Netherlands Embassy to study the potential for biogas in Indonesia. The Embassy then commissioned SNV to conduct a feasibility study. The results of the study indicated a biogas potential in Indonesia that can reach one million units and a rewarding financial rate of return (FIRR) for farmers. Based on that, Hivos – supported by SNV – started a biogas program in (maximum) eight provinces in Indonesia, with a multi-stakeholders sector-development approach.

Biogas technology brings a lot of benefits, including contributing toward eradication of poverty and providing greater food security. BIRU’s approach to this program will greatly affect health conditions of local communities, open new employment opportunities, and also affect the local economy. Although the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) do not specifically target the energy sector, indirectly biogas technology undoubtedly has a positive impact on the fulfillment of MDGs in developing countries.