JAKARTA — Indonesia must stop building new coal-fired power plants by 2020 if it wants to do its part to cap global warming under the targets of the Paris climate agreement, new analysis shows.
- Indonesia must stop building coal-fired power plants by next year if it’s to keep up its commitments to the Paris climate agreement, according to a new analysis.
- The country would also have to stop burning coal by 2048 in order to contribute to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
- That scenario looks highly unlikely, though, with 39 coal plants under construction and 68 announced, and installed coal-fired capacity set to double over the next decade.
- Analysts say a major obstacle to breaking Indonesia’s coal addiction is the lack of policies encouraging investment in renewable energy sources.
The country is one of the few still actively planning and constructing new plants, putting it on a trajectory to miss its climate commitments, aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In an analysis of four scenarios, carried out by the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), a Jakarta-based think tank, only one would see Indonesia contribute to those goals — and it starts with scrapping the dozens of coal-fired power plants being built or planned.
Achieving that goal, the IESR says, “would require that there are fewer coal plants installed capacity in Indonesia,” including “no more coal plants … built after 2020.”
“The 1.5 [degree] scenario would even need 2 gigawatts less of coal plant installed capacity from current existing capacity by 2020, meaning coal plant phase-out should happen this year,” it adds.
That scenario sees burning of coal phased out altogether by 2048 and the country’s total emissions peak by 2028 at 274 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) before declining to zero by 2048.
A second, less stringent, scenario projects capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It too would require stopping building new coal-fired power plants by 2020.
The other scenarios are less ambitious in scope, such as retiring coal plants older than 30 years, and improving the efficiency of existing plants. But these scenarios would mean Indonesia falling short of its climate commitments and contributing to a global temperature rise of 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
And even then, said IESR executive director Fabby Tumiwa, “we still won’t reach net-zero emissions” by 2050.
The Cilacap coal power plant is located near a port for local fishermen.
Image by Tommy Apriando/Mongabay-Indonesia.
Coal building spree
A land mark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last year warned that the world had until 2030 to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts. In practice, this means global greenhouse gas emissions will have to drop by half over the next 10 years and reach net-zero around mid-century.
Much of Indonesia’s emissions to date have come from deforestation and land use change, particularly the burning of carbon-rich peatlands to make way for plantations of oil palm, pulpwood, and rubber. But under the current administration’s ambitious energy push, emissions from electricity generation are poised to dominate.
The country’s energy consumption growth is among the fastest in the world, and the government is relying mostly on coal-fired plants to feed that demand. In 2018, coal accounted for 60 percent of Indonesia’s energy mix.
Under the government’s latest electricity procurement plan, the installed capacity of coal plants in the country is expected to nearly double over the next decade from the current 28 gigawatts. Thirty-nine coal-fired power plants are currently under construction, and 68 have been announced, which will maintain coal’s dominance of the energy mix at nearly 55 percent by 2025.
Of six new power plants expected to go online this year, three are fired by coal. (The other three are small-capacity facilities powered by natural gas, hydro and solar, respectively.)
This trajectory risks trapping Indonesia in a high-carbon economy, says the IESR’s Fabby, because once a coal plant is built, it can remain in operation for up to 50 years.
“If we build fossil fuel infrastructure today, the emissions for the next half a century will be locked,” he said. “It’s estimated that our emissions from power plants will be at 700 to 800 million tons of CO2 in 2030.”
Coal spill from July 2018 along a beach in Indonesia’s Aceh province in Sumatra. Image by Junaidi Hanafiah/Mongabay-Indonesia.
Indonesia’s coal plant building spree makes the country an outlier in Southeast Asia, where governments are increasingly taking a stand against the fossil fuel. Recent analysis by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) identifies Indonesia as the only country in the region to build new coal energy infrastructure in the first half of 2019.
Thailand in January removed two major coal plants, the 800-megawatt Krabi and 2,200 MW Thepa facilities, from its energy development plan. It also shelved the 3,200 MW Thap Sakae project due to community resistance. The country’s plan also reduces the share of coal in the energy mix from 25 percent envisaged in the previous plan to just 12 percent.
Instead, Thailand is making a major pivot toward clean energy, announcing an ambitious plang to build the world’s largest floating solar farms to power Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
In the Philippines, which faces a similar challenge to Indonesia of meeting fast-growing demand for cheap electricity, President Rodrigo Duterte recently called on his department of energy to fast-track the development of renewable energy and reduce dependence on coal. In practice, however, the government still hasn’t issued an executive mandate that would compel the energy department to change its coal-dependent roadmap. And in October, Duterte inaugurated the country’s 21st coal-fired power plant.
And while the region as a whole is home to three of the world’s top 10 biggest networks of planned coal power plants, construction of new plants in Southeast Asia has actually fallen dramatically since peaking at 12,920 MW new installed capacity in 2016, according to the GEM. In 2018, only 2,744 MW of new coal-fired capacity entered into construction.
Christine Shearer, the director of the GEM’s coal program, said coal had become increasingly less attractive for investors in Southeast Asia.
“Coal power is facing something of a perfect storm,” she said. “Communities are rejecting it due to the high levels of pollution, renewable energy technology is undercutting it in terms of quality and cost, and financial institutions are backing away fast, making funding an increasing challenge for coal proponents.”
Source: Indra Nugraha / Monga Bay
2 December 2019