Shift to renewables blocked by political interests in coal industry: Activists

CNN Indonesia – December 24, 2020
Activists hold banner reading 'Coal destroys tidal corral reefs' – Undated (Greenpeace Indonesia)

Jakarta – Enlightened Indonesia Foundation Executive Director Adhityani Putri says that the government should be more aggressive in realising its commitments to addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the ways to do this is by endeavoring to shift energy production to non-fossil energy resources. But, according to Adhityani, this is difficult for the government to do because of its dependency on coal as a fuel source for coal-fired power plants (PLTU).

"It's difficult for Indonesia to shift away from coal because it's not just a consumer of coal, but also a producer of coal. So there are a lot of businesses and political interests which want preserve the industry", he told CNN Indonesia on Wednesday December 23.

This dependency, he added, can be seen from the government's moves to keep promoting the construction of new PLTUs and down-streaming coal, despite it being seen as a sunset industry.

He noted that state-owned electricity company PLN is currently developing PLTU projects equivalent to 12 gigawatts which will further contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The flow-on effect of this will impact negatively on the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, day by day the impact of climate change is increasingly apparent, according to Adhityani. The Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change has emphasised that the world only has one more decade before depleting its carbon credits.

"Meaning we don't have much time to make a change. Indonesia is already feeling a lot of negative impacts from climate change. Drought and extreme weather have begun to impact on our food production. Rising sea levels will inundate Indonesia's coastal cities. Prolonged forest fires", he said.

Adhityani believes that by being more ambitious the government should be able to develop renewable energy source and that in looking at the impacts, there are no strong grounds for maintaining PLTUs.

Adhityani said that capacity to promote renewable energy in Indonesia has been proven by the Wind Power Plant (PLTB) in Sidrap, South Sulawesi, and the Solar Power Plant (PLTS) in Cirata, West Java.

In a study published in September, Greenpeace revealed that Indonesia's efforts to make an energy transition to combat a rise in global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius were far inferior to other Southeast Asian countries.

The findings were revealed in a study titled, Southeast Asia Power Sector Scorecard which analysed country's commitment to addressing climate change and energy policies in eight Southeast Asian countries.

The study gave Indonesia a score of F, the worse out of the eight countries, meaning that the Indonesian government was not making any serious efforts to shift its energy needs from fossil fuels to renewables.

This is suspected to be because the elites in the coal industry are preventing the transition to renewable energy. Over capacity in the coal industry and subsidies for PLTUs are also obstructing the development of wind and solar power plants.

"The introduction of the recently enacted Omnibus Law on Job Creation and the Mineral and Coal Mining Law will further undermine Indonesia's environmental and social protections, including worsening the assessment of environmental impacts which are already weak", wrote the study.

With a track record such as this, Greenpeace doubts if Indonesia will be able to reach its target of keeping temperature rises to below 1.5 degrees or its emission reduction targets. (fey/pmg)


According to the Cleaning Indonesia Coalition (#BersihkanIndonesia), at least half of the members and leaders of the House of Representatives (DPR) are connected to the coal industry and the Omnibus Law Task Force, which played a key role in drafting the Omnibus Law, was made up of commissioners and directors of coal companies. Senior government officials in President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's cabinet such as Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and Widodo confidant Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan also have extensive coal mining interests.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Aktivis Nilai Komitmen Tekan Perubahan Iklim Terganjal Bisnis".]