January 31, 2024
JAKARTA – The government is facing fresh calls to evaluate the public health and socioeconomic impacts of the country’s widespread use of coal-fired power plants as it moves to implement the landmark Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP).
Environmental groups said at a report launch event on Tuesday that they had been urging the government to address the deterioration of the quality of life in communities around coal-fired power plants owing to the pollutants they emitted.
This included having the JETP program take into account the rehabilitation of coastal areas, rivers and lakes affected by coal plants’ operations.
“The results of the evaluation would be a strong basis to formulate an effective, sustainable and inclusive regulation,” said Gadjah Mada University (UGM) researcher and report coauthor Erythrina Orie at the event, which was hosted by climate advocacy group Indonesia Cerah.
The report focuses on populations living near coal-fired power plants on Java Island, such as those in West Java and East Java.
Respondents interviewed in the report said they had seen fish catches decline significantly in recent years as a result of pollution from coal spills in coastal areas.
The report also noted that 54 percent of respondents living within a kilometer of the coal plants faced difficulty breeding animals and that at least one in five people had suffered from respiratory health problems since the coal fleets started their operations.
As one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of the commodity, Indonesia lives and breathes coal. About 67.2 percent of its power came from the dirty fuel in 2022, resulting in the emission of millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide, which experts say harms lives and livelihoods, including through worsening air quality.
The power sector is the largest contributor to Indonesia’s CO2 emissions, accounting for 43 percent of the total, followed by the transportation sector and industrial sector at 25 percent and 23 percent, respectively, according to a report by Climate Transparency published in 2022.
Orie of UGM stressed the importance of ensuring policy consistency across the road maps, programs and regulations devised by the government, power plant companies and civil society organizations (CSOs) to transition away from fossil fuels.
Ahmad Rahma Wardhana, a researcher at UGM’s Center for Energy Studies, said at the same event that ministries and state-owned electricity company PLN had different targets, which the government would have to align for its transition plan to succeed.
Experts and CSOs expressed hope that the US$20 billion JETP commitment, the largest energy financing package in the world to date, would be a game changer in accelerating Indonesia’s sluggish energy transition.
The package includes a plan to retire coal plants early.
However, critics say the JETP Comprehensive Investment and Policy Plan (CIPP), released in November 2023, is missing crucial points, including human rights, ethical governance and social, ecological and economic justice.
A study by the Center of Economic and Law Studies (CELIOS) found that early retirement of the Cirebon-1, Pelabuhan Ratu and Suralaya coal plants would generate an additional Rp 82.6 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP).
The Cirebon-1 and Pelabuhan Ratu plans are to be retired in 2035 and 2037, respectively, according to the JETP’s CIPP.