Indonesia champions shift to clean energy

With G20 presidency, country aims to push for more action on climate change

Indonesia has flagged its strong commitment to curbing emissions, with its plans to reduce reliance on fossil fuels likely to resonate with fellow members of the G20 group of nations at a summit in Bali where climate action is expected to be high on the agenda.

Upon Indonesia taking over the G20 presidency late last year, President Joko Widodo vowed “inclusive, people-oriented, environmentally friendly and sustainable growth” for his country, the largest in Southeast Asia. He spoke of Indonesia becoming a driving force for collaboration on efforts to tackle climate change, a task that has been elevated by the country’s hosting of the grouping’s leaders summit on the resort island in November.

On Tuesday, Widodo met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, where he gained Chinese support for hosting the summit and related meetings. Representatives of an organization known as the Energy Transition Working Group of G20 will gather in Bali in late August. The Energy Transition Ministerial Meeting will take place there the following month, with discussions on technology and funding needs to enable a green transition for economies around the world.

Widodo has said that Indonesia needs big investments and low-carbon technology to support its switch to clean energy.

A solar photovoltaic farm with a capacity of 21 megawatts in Likupang, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources

Former environment minister Sonny Keraf said Indonesia needs to make full use of its abundant sources of renewable energy. In addition to hydropower, Indonesia can make use of geothermal energy, plentiful solar resources and year-round strong winds, as well as energy derived from ocean waves.

The energy crisis exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict should have made all parties, especially the government, aware that the transition to renewable energies is urgent, Keraf said. However, Keraf, who now teaches environmental ethics at Jakarta’s Atmajaya University, said the production of electricity from renewable sources remains unattractive to private investors in Indonesia because generation using fossil fuels is cheaper.

One of the world’s biggest coal producers and exporters, Indonesia is committed to gradually reducing its use of coal, which accounts for about 60 percent of the country’s electricity generation. The potential contribution from hydropower is estimated at 75,000 megawatts.

Great potential

So far, only about 7 percent of the nation’s hydropower potential has been tapped, and more investments are expected over the coming years from Chinese and Japanese firms.

Micro-hydropower projects are seen as a good option as remote villages are often sited along rivers across the archipelago. Such projects are already helping to improve people’s livelihoods.

Among the hydropower projects involving Chinese investors is one taking shape on the Sungai Kayan River in resource-rich North Kalimantan Province. When completed, it will have a capacity of 9,000 MW, making it the country’s largest hydropower plant. Electricity from the site is expected to serve the new national capital, Nusantara, which is being developed in Penajam Paser Utara in East Kalimantan.

On a smaller scare, a micro-hydropower plant built at a 20-meter-high waterfall in the village of Tiworiwu in East Nusa Tenggara Province lights up hundreds of homes in the area. Built and operated by a private investor, the plant supplies power to state electricity company PLN, which then sends it to neighborhoods on its power lines.

“Villagers here are so thankful. Now they can also peel cashew nuts with electric equipment” and then sell them, power plant manager Ivan Bhigu said. He said PLN is initiating the development of several hydro projects in other parts of East Nusa Tenggara.

People take pictures of a car road test for fuel with 40% palm based biodiesel blending at a Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources area in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 27, 2022. 

The government and the parliament are also deliberating a bill that aims to allow the building of nuclear power plants in Indonesia.

ThorCon Power Indonesia is the only nuclear company operating in Indonesia. After conducting joint studies with universities, the company proposed to the government that it build nuclear power plants with private investment.

With the climate crisis, nuclear power is a good alternative as it is environmentally friendly, cheap and does not require government funding, said Bob S. Effendi, operation director of ThorCon Power Indonesia.

As for natural gas, Indonesia wants to apply carbon capture, utilization and storage technology to make the fuel more environmentally friendly.

Source: China Daily, 28 July, 2022.