Rushing past a crowd of tourists, Evan (my fellow Luce Scholar in Indonesia) and I walked briskly towards the steps. It was around five in the morning, and I was eager to reach the top. A moment of undisturbed reflection was going to be worth the trouble of getting ahead. We made our way to the front of the crowd and continued walking up the steps. A bright white light helped us navigate the path toward the top of Borobudur temple. After climbing the last set of stairs, Evan and I went in different directions to find a completely empty space. The adhan—the Islamic call to prayer—echoed across the hills, and the mist of morning clouds dotted the skyline.

The adhan ushered in a beautiful morning as I stood on top of the world’s largest Buddhist temple in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Words can’t do justice to that moment.

Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, is home to many religions, ethnicities, languages, and cultures. Dubbed the Improbable Nation, Indonesia has defied the odds and progressed toward greater economic development and a still fragile democratic system since its independence over 70 years ago. Over the past few months, I have had the opportunity to explore a tiny fraction of Indonesia’s cultural diversity and learn more about one major component of its vibrant and promising economy: the energy sector.

I arrived in Indonesia hoping to work with the Center of Excellence on Clean Energy, a project sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Energy to cultivate the nation’s renewable energy potential. Indonesia is home to 40% of the world’s geothermal energy potential and is blessed with high rates of solar irradiance along with strong winds across its shores. These dynamics make it a prime location for renewable energy investment, but the sector has yet to reach its potential.

As part of my Luce-year experience, I witnessed, firsthand, the trials and tribulations of renewable energy development in a fossil-fuel-dependent economy. Within one month of my arrival in Indonesia, the minister of energy was ousted, and three weeks later, his replacement was also ousted. In light of these political transitions, the ministry’s renewable energy projects were being restructured just weeks before my placement was going to start. Over a WhatsApp message and an ensuing phone call, I found out that the Center of Excellence on Clean Energy was going to be dissolved, and along with it, my Luce placement in Jakarta.

The Ministry of Energy’s Jakarta office helped facilitate a new placement for me with a smaller scale project based in Bali. In October, I began working with Kawasan National Energi Bersih (KNEB). The Indonesian Ministry of Energy sponsored KNEB to increase renewable energy uptake in Bali and Eastern Indonesia. Working on a more localized scale has been the most rewarding aspect of my placement thus far in Bali. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to assist with site assessments that identify community needs to construct viable renewable energy solutions. I am looking forwarding to digging deeper into more site mapping trips and studies for solar and bioenergy projects across Bali during the second half of my placement with KNEB.