This aerial photo taken on June 13, 2021 shows buildings amid smog in Jakarta. (BAY ISMOYO / AFP)
The future is bright for Indonesia’s solar energy sector as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy aims to raise its renewable energy capacity to meet its climate commitments, experts said.
Indonesia has pledged to reduce emissions by 29 percent under a business-as-usual scenario, and by 41 percent, with international support, by 2030. The country is among the world’s top emitters due to deforestation and its dependence on coal power plants.
Indonesia has pledged to reduce emissions by 29 percent under a business-as-usual scenario, and by 41 percent, with international support, by 2030. The country is among the world’s top emitters due to deforestation and its dependence on coal power plants
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who spoke at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in the Scottish city of Glasgow, said his country plans to increase the use of renewables to reduce emissions.
A 10-year electricity procurement plan that the state-owned utilities firm Perusahaan Listrik Negara issued in October revealed that it aims to add 20.9 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity in the next few years. This means renewable energy will account for more than half of the additional energy capacity. PLN targets to add 4.68 GW of solar power capacity by 2030.
“Indonesia can increase (its climate) ambition because there’s so much potential in solar energy,” said Fabby Tumiwa, executive director of the Jakarta-based think tank Institute for Essential Services Reform.
According to a joint study by IESR, Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology and the Germany-based think tank Agora Energiewende that was published in May, the reduction in the prices of batteries and solar photovoltaic systems and the huge solar potential throughout the county can make solar energy the primary source of electricity generation in Indonesia by 2050.
The study has estimated that solar power can account for as much as 88 percent of total electricity generation.
“Why solar? Because the price (of solar panels and batteries) has been going down rapidly and we have year-long (source of) solar power,” said Elrika Hamdi, energy finance analyst at the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.
Hamdi said compared with other renewable energy sources, solar energy is easier to deploy as it will take more time to build hydro and geothermal power plants.
Indonesia lies along the equator and this geographical position ensures that the whole archipelago can harness sunlight – a free energy resource – throughout the year.
The 100% Renewable Energy Team, or RE100, at the Australian National University, citing data from the Global Solar Atlas, reported that Indonesia’s solar energy potential is even bigger than the resources of other countries that are now home to large solar energy fleets.
Indonesia has a daily average global horizontal irradiation of 4.8 kilowatt hours per square meter (kWh/m2) – higher than China (4.1 kWh/m2), Japan (3.6 kWh/m2) and Germany (2.9 kWh/m2).
Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources estimates that the country has a solar energy potential of nearly 208 GW, yet solar generation in the country is less than 1 percent, according to IESR.
David Silalahi, a member of RE100, believes that solar and other renewable energy sources can replace coal as Indonesia’s main energy resource over the long term. And it can start by gradually retiring each of the country’s more than 200 coal-fired power plants.
He added that one of the advantages of solar power is that, unlike coal, its price is not subject to fluctuations in the international commodities market.
Indonesia is among the world’s biggest coal producers and exporters. Coal accounts for roughly 60 percent of electricity generation in Indonesia.
Hamdi of IEEFA said that it can be quite difficult to reduce Indonesia’s dependence on coal given that it is one of the country’s key industries. Not only does coal generate electricity, it is also an export revenue earner and generates jobs.
“But that doesn’t mean that Indonesia shouldn’t try and shift our energy consumption toward something more sustainable,” she said.
The PLN said it will stop building coal-fired power plants after 2023 and phase out coal for electricity by 2056, enabling Indonesia to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.
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