Finding value in manure: Sumbawa Regency’s dung-powered renewable energy transition

(in photo above) West Nusa Tenggara is one of the largest beef producers in Indonesia. The resulting cow dung from its over-250,000 cow population has enormous biogas energy potential.

Sumbawa Regency citizens in Indonesia’s West Nusa Tenggara (WNT) Province still rely heavily on kerosene for their cooking fuel needs. However, a surprising, more eco-friendly alternative is on the rise—biogas from cow dung. Throughout the regency, livestock-based communities are turning their cows’ byproduct into a valuable source of energy and supplemental income.

Biogas Potential in Sumbawa

Sumbawa Regency is the largest of the ten regencies and cities of WNT, having a total area of 6,643.98 km2, a 2020 population estimate of 509,753, and a population density of 77 people per square kilometer.

As a whole, WNT is one of the largest beef producers in Indonesia and its largest cattle barn can be found in Sumbawa. As of 2019, the regency has over 257,000 cows, almost 40,000 goats, over 18,500 horses, over 11,000 pigs, and over 900 sheep.

This number of livestock unfortunately leads to various problems. Globally, livestock production produces 18% of GHG emissions in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. Locally, Sumbawa Regency’s rivers are experiencing declining water quality as livestock dung pollutes in-land waterways. This is detrimental to the quality of life of many regency citizens who still rely on river water for bathing, washing, drinking, and cooking.

Livestock manure must therefore be rerouted into other, more sustainable ways of disposal. Converting animal dung into biogas is one such avenue that presents a tremendous opportunity for Sumbawa Regency. Aside from reducing the potential for air and water pollution, animal waste management can also provide various co-benefits for Sumbawa’s communities.

Renewable energy efforts from the grassroots

Solihin is one of Sumbawa Regency’s biogas pioneers.

Solihin is committed to seeing the potential of biogas in Sumbawa. In his opinion, cow dung should be developed as it has economic value.

“This reduces the potential for pollution and can also be used as an alternative cooking fuel while the remaining cow dung can be composted,” said Solihin.

Solihin continued that fertilizer is essential for agricultural activities in order to maintain soil fertility and produce abundant harvests.

In 2012, he participated in a training program conducted by the provincial government to develop methods of using cow, buffalo, and horse dung as alternative fuels. As time passed, Solihin became engaged in activities that aimed to educate and assist communities in using cow dung as a substitute cooking fuel.

It was in 2021 that Solihin began organizing as many as 14 households in RT 02 RW 01, Brang Biji Village, Sumbawa District.

Each of the 14 households owns anywhere between three and twelve cows. The provincial governments of WNT and Sumbawa provided financial assistance to support the construction of an initial biogas facility within the community. Solihin educated the community members, supervised the process, and provided assistance with the operations of the facility. As of December 2021, the community has been operating a total of 14 biogas facilities.

One household in a rural area of Sumbawa consumes approximately 1-2 kilograms of cooking fuel per day, which in turn can be produced from the manure of three cows each day. Any excess biogas can be converted into electrical energy for the household’s lighting needs. As such, a household with more than three cows should have enough biogas fuel for both their cooking and illumination.

With the shortage and resulting price increases of kerosene due to government actions to promote the use of clean and renewable energy, this alternative energy source has been invaluable for Solihin’s community.

“The cost of kerosene is quite high, if there is kerosene available,” said Solihin.

A biogas facility under construction.

Residual wastes from the bioconversion process can be used to produce compost and liquid fertilizer. Sumbawa and other provinces outside of the WNT Province, such as Bali, have a large market for both types of fertilizers.

Biogas teems with co-benefits

Before using biogas, the community used to budget at least IDR 300,000 (around USD 20) per month for kerosene fuel. In transitioning to renewable energy, the community is able to meet its daily cooking fuel needs at little to no cost, while also reducing its lighting bill.

The economic co-benefits of converting cow dung into biogas is made more prevalent through the organic fertilizer residue of the bioconversion process. 40kg of this fertilizer type can be sold for IDR 10,000 (around USD 0.60) after it is mixed with other supporting compounds. A small-scale operation with just three cows can produce as much as 140kg of organic fertilizer each month, allowing households to supplement their income with approximately IDR 40,000 (USD 2.5) per month.

Provincial commitment to 100% renewable energy

Sumbawa Regent Drs. H. Mahmud Abdullah commended these efforts to utilize the abundant livestock manure for the production of biogas as it is a foundational step towards achieving net zero emissions in the province by 2050.

Since 2019, the WNT Provincial Government, in collaboration with 10 regencies and cities, including Sumbawa Regency, has been developing a vision and roadmap for achieving 100% renewable energy in the province.

The province hopes to replicate Sumbawa’s biogas production efforts in other localities with high livestock populations.

Post a comment