The air conditioners at the State Palace complex were turned down a notch or two. Some officials worked in shady rooms on Monday afternoon due to a lack of sunlight through the tall windows, as staffers were not permitted to turn on the lights during daylight hours.
This is actually a repeat scene from seven years ago when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono first insisted on energy conservation to support the government’s decision to reduce fuel subsidies.
Last week, Yudhoyono gave similar orders following the brouhaha over the fuel subsidy.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said all air conditioners in the complex had been set to 25 degrees Celsius, from the usual 16 to 17 degrees, as part of the nationwide energy-saving campaign initiated by Yudhoyono.
Julian said the five- to eight-degree difference could save electricity significantly despite the fact many of the air conditioners were so old that they consumed more energy.
Palace staffers also said a number of high-ranking officials now came to the palace donning simpler attire and leaving their suits at home.
The President, as well as a number of Cabinet members, however, still wore a formal suit during the inauguration ceremony of the new National Police Commission members on Monday.
But this time the official vehicles were not left with their engines and air conditioning running.
“I was told not to do that again. We are now allowed only to turn on the car’s air conditioner a few minutes before my boss comes to adjust the temperature in the car,” a ministerial driver said.
Yudhoyono has also adopted a strict illumination policy for the State Palace.
“If you take a tour around this complex, you will notice that there are very few lights on,” Yudhoyono told members of the Supreme Audit Agency during a meeting at the Presidential Office last Wednesday.
When the day is done, staffers are now ordered to leave office immediately and are discouraged from working overtime. “They say this is to save energy,” a State staffer who wished to remain anonymous said.
Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa said that the energy-conservation policy should not be seen as encouraging government employees to take on less work.
“We don’t advise civil servants to reduce productivity, we advise them to utilize their working hours to the maximum,” he said.
Last week, Yudhoyono delivered the “National Movement on Fuel Energy Conservation” speech which was aired live on national television.
In his speech, he unveiled the government’s five-pronged approach to cutting fuel subsidies and controlling energy consumption. One of the five steps is reducing electricity consumption, particularly in all central and regional government institutions as well as state-owned enterprises’ offices.
The President also appealed for the adoption of a digital surveillance system to record the daily fuel consumption of all vehicles and the provision of fiscal incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles.
A few days after the speech the Presidential complex did look gloomier, a scene that also transpired seven years ago.
In 2005, a year after Yudhoyono began his first term in office, he issued an instruction on energy conservation basically ordering the same thing; turn off lights and turn up air conditioners etc.
The policy lasted for a few months and languished until Yudhoyono renewed his call last week.
Uchok Sky Khadafi from the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (FITRA) said Yudhoyono’s energy conservation drive would probably fail like the last time unless he ordered more severe measures.
“The President could begin by replacing his ministers’ gas-guzzling Toyota Crown Royal Saloon luxury sedans with Toyota Avanzas. That would mean so much more than just giving an order to switch off lights,” he said.