- Reportedly, the president of Indonesia has reported an important change in energy policy, saying he wants to "start reducing the use of coal".
- Such a policy would be contrary to the long-term plans of the administration previously declared to feed the country's growing demand for energy with coal, with 39 coal-fired power plants under construction and another 68 announced.
- Indonesia is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in the world, and while the main culprit is deforestation and land use change, the energy sector is ready to overcome it.
- Energy policy analysts have welcomed the change in position reported by the government, noting that Indonesia has long been lagging behind other countries in developing clean energy, despite the abundance of renewable energy sources .
JAKARTA – Reportedly, President Joko Widodo has expressed the intention to wean Indonesia from coal, in a move contrary to the policy declared by its own administration to increase the country's dependence on fossil fuel.
The president made the announcement at a cabinet meeting on July 8, according to Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Minister of Environment and Forestry.
"(T), the president underlined that we need to develop the energy sector with a focus on renewable energy," said Siti at a recent event in Jakarta. "Therefore, the president explicitly asked to start reducing the use of coal."
The comment reported came at a time of particular quality in the air in the capital, Jakarta, which led to a lawsuit for citizens in the possession of senior officials, including the president, responsible for pollution, blamed in part on the power plants charcoal operating near the city. (The case was filed on July 4, four days before the president made his observations, it is not clear whether the second was suggested by the first.)
If the administration will follow the statement with concrete policies to gradually eliminate the use of coal, this could indicate the beginning of a transition to renewable energy for Indonesia, the most analysts say that they are big consumers of energy in Southeast Asia and one of the largest consumers of coal in the world.
"When I heard about it, I was ecstatic, surprised and hopeful," Alin Halimatussadiah, head of the Institute for Economic and Social Research at the Indonesian State University, told Mongabay.
Adhityani Putri, executive director of Yayasan Indonesia Cerah, a political and local communication concept that promotes clean energy transition, also welcomed the news.
"This statement represents a significant step forward and one that will put Indonesia in step with the major economies of the world," he told Mongabay.
Both Alin and Adhityani have claimed that a change in coal policy has been long overdue, as fossil fuels have lost favor with other major economies for years in favor of increasingly competitive renewable energy costs.
"We have fallen behind as many other countries have pledged to phase out coal, while we have not said anything about it," said Alin. "This is the first step, and with the president saying that it's a good thing."
But any significant change will have to start with a review of the electricity supply plan, or RUPTL, from the state-owned enterprise, PLN. Currently, RUPTL asks to increase the absolute figure for long-term renewable energy production, but reduces its share of the overall energy mix in favor of more coal-fired electricity.
"In the RUPTL document, coal is still dominant, so we have not seen (no plan to phase out coal) in any planning document," said Alin.
Adhityani said the government would need "a complete and fair elimination plan to ensure a fair transition for all and accelerated deployment of renewable energy" in the next national medium-term development plan.
The ideal plan should offer fiscal and non-fiscal incentives that would lower the price of renewable energy to make it competitive with coal, said Elrika Hamdi, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
"What is also important is that the policies adopted should be consistent and in force for a long time in order to guarantee investors and financiers," he added.
Emission reduction target
With President Widodo who recently won an election that holds him in office until 2024, an easing of Indonesia's dependence on coal will help the country's carbon dioxide emission reduction targets, declared Siti , Minister of the Environment.
"I welcome this statement with joy because this really authorizes our work," he said.
Indonesia is currently one of the largest CO2 emitters in the world, largely from deforestation and changes in land use. However, energy sector emissions are set to dominate in the near future as electricity demand in Indonesia continues to rise.
The country's energy consumption growth is among the fastest in the world, with coal accounting for about 60% of the energy mix in 2018. Its energy policy therefore has important implications not only for the country's climate future, but also for global efforts to achieve cuts under the Paris Agreement.
According to current plans, emissions from coal-fired power plants would peak only around 2035, with a possible gradual withdrawal only by 2069; in order to have a chance of achieving the Paris targets, meanwhile, the South East Asian region will have to phase out coal by 2040, according to analysts.
Failing the commitments of the Paris Agreement would be particularly disastrous for tropical countries like Indonesia. A new study Research group Crowther Lab believes that cities in the tropics will probably see the strongest impacts of climate change, even if they undergo minor changes in average temperature.
The study, examining the 520 major cities in the world, notes that Jakarta will be among those who will face "unprecedented" climate change by 2050, including changes in precipitation that will lead to more severe floods and droughts. It also provides for an average annual temperature increase of 1.7 degrees Celsius (3.1 degrees Fahrenheit), with an increase in maximum temperatures of 3.1 degrees Celsius (5.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
"Changing the energy power of Indonesia from coal to renewable energy sources could be the key to achieving the country's emission reduction targets," said Ruandha Agung Sugardiman, head of climate change in the Ministry of Environment.
Indonesia has set itself the goal of reducing emissions by 29% from the business-as-usual scenario of 2030, or 41% with international assistance.
Ruandha said that there is more room for emissions cuts in the energy sector than in the land use and forestry sectors. Within the current objective, emissions in the last sectors must fall by 70%, also through the reduction of the deforestation rate and the increase in reforestation; the energy sector, meanwhile, only needs to achieve a 19 percent reduction in emissions.
"It is very clear that the energy sector could be much more ambitious (in reducing emissions)," said Ruandha. "This is in line with what the president is saying that we need to phase out coal. And this is supported by the Minister of Energy and Mining Resources, which will change our energy model."
Ruandha was commissioned by Siti to study the possibility that Indonesia set an even more ambitious 45 percent emission reduction target to help curb global warming.
"In recent events, including the G20 meeting, in reality each country has the hope of setting a target of up to 45 percent," the minister said. "I asked the general manager (of climate change) to do some calculations, even if for us reaching the target of 41% is already difficult."
Sites added that he had begun discussions with the Energy Minister, Ignasius Jonan, on steps to reduce the use of coal and advance renewable energy during last month's G20 summit in Japan.
Other coal plants
That a transition from coal is even discussed at the highest levels of government marks an important change of tone with respect to the long-standing energy policies that have been based on the abundance of cheap and available coal. Indeed, Indonesian coal reserves have made it one of the world's largest commodity exporters over the past 15 years.
Subsequent government policies have helped; coal-fired power plants receive substantial subsidies and there are no carbon disincentives to encourage investment in renewable energy. Coal dependence has shown no sign of easing in recent years. Thirty-nine coal-fired power plants are under construction and 68 have been announced, which will keep the dominance of coal from the energy mix to almost 55% by 2025. Three of the six new plants should go online this year will be fired from coal; the other three are small capacity plants powered respectively by gas, hydroelectric and solar.
Over the 40-50 years that each plant will be operational, it will have a devastating impact on local populations and ecosystems, activists say, polluting the air and water, and producing huge amounts of CO2 in the ;atmosphere.
"The promise of burning huge quantities of low-quality Indonesian coal may have kept some voters warm, but Indonesians will pay a very high price for their love affair with coal," says a relationship from & # 39; IEFE. "And the younger generation will be stuck with limited options to fix a rigid system."
This heavy dependence on coal has the cost of growing the renewable energy sector of Indonesia, with an adoption that is far behind most of the countries and below the true potential of the country, according to a new report from the management consulting firm AT Kearney.
The government plans to generate 23% of the country's energy from renewable sources by 2025. To date, however, renewable sources represent only 12% of the total energy mix. This proportion should not increase in 2025.
"While many countries are making rapid progress in adopting renewable energy for energy production, progress in Indonesia has been rather slow," said Alessandro Gazzini, partner of A.T. Kearney and co-author of the report. "However, the country has significant potential in renewable energies, including solar and wind, and therefore the country is expected to override over the next few years if the policy is looked upon poorly."
Growing public awareness
Public awareness has recently grown regarding the negative impacts of the coal industry, especially during the presidential election campaign that ended in April. At various points in the campaign, Widodo and his rival, Prabowo Subianto, were examined for their lack of commitment to new, greener energy technologies. The commercial ties between the candidates, their political allies and the coal industry were also highlighted in a documentary entitled "Sexy Killers".
The documentary, seen more than 24 million times on YouTube since it was uploaded days before the April 17th elections, also highlighted the devastating impact of coal mines and power plants in local communities, including lush forests razed to the ground in the search for more coal and coral reefs to be destroyed by coal barges.
Residents living near the huge power plants of Java and Bali also pay a price. The film shows that many of them are evicted to make room for plants, while those who refuse to leave must face constant pollution.
The film attracted the wrath of local officials, who hastened to close public screenings and even accused the directors of spreading "hate speech" against both candidates.
Alin said that it is possible that Widodo had a change of heart after the recent intense public spotlight on the coal industry, as well as the global trend towards renewable energy.
"We may never know what is in the head of the government, but if we see recent events in which the public responded to various information circulating (on the impact of the coal industry) through social media "It is possible that the government is reacting to this," she said. "Or the government could also react to global pressure".
Banner image: a group of local people hit by coal-fired power stations in Indonesia stage a protest outside the headquarters of President Joko Widodo's campaign team in Jakarta. Image of Hans Nicholas Jong / Mongabay.
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