Thursday, October 21st, 2021-In the International Day of Action Against Biomass, Trend Asia held a symbolic action to take part in the launch of the global campaign against #BigBadBiomass, Thursday (19/10/2021). This action aims to fight industrial-scale forest biomass and urges multilateral development banks and other institutions to not invest in biomass.

In the latest Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) document, the government targets Indonesia to be carbon-free by 2060 or sooner by stopping the use of fossil energy and switching to renewable energy[1]. In the energy transition scenario, the government has launched biomass co-firing as an alternative energy solution that is claimed to be greener. To note, biomass co-firing is a method of mixing coal with biomass derived from various raw materials, such as wood pellets, waste pellets, sawdust, palm shells, sawdust, and rice husks.

On a global scale, there is increasing concern over large-scale biomass and other forms of bioenergy. This is because large-scale biomass actually encourages massive land use, burning trees, and threatens biodiversity. The government even projects that hundreds of thousands of hectares of land are needed for this program [2].

“Since 2020, Indonesia has focused on biomass co-firing with the use of wood pellets and wood chips to replace coal. One of the schemes used to fulfill this is utilizing monoculture energy plantations. This is the biggest threat to land conversion and burning its commodities will exacerbate the climate crisis,” said Sarah Agustio, Biomass Campaigner and Researcher of Trend Asia.

Meanwhile in an interview with ANTARA, the Minister of Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya said that in Indonesia’s most ambitious scenario namely the Low Carbon Compatible with Paris Agreement, Indonesia seeks to reach the peak of national greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 with a net sink in the forestry sector and land use in 2030 [3].

“Co-firing is a fake energy transition solution and merely a trick by the government to extend the operating period of the electric steam power plant. Biomass mixed with coal will not reduce exposure to pollution that has already been suffered by either residents around the power plant or life forms around the forest,” she added.

Indonesia as a country that is actively involved in renewable energy programs uses biomass. PT PLN as Indonesia’s biggest electricity player in Indonesia is aggressively replacing coal with biomass co-firing. So far, there are 6 plants that use biomass commercially and the number of plants is projected to continue to grow. There are 52 steam power plants with an installed capacity of 2000 megawatts (MW) that use co-firing. By 2024, it is estimated that the 52 coal-fired power plants (CPP) will use biomass co-firing with a total capacity of 18,154 Megawatts (MW)[4].

UN international trade statistics data mentioned that in the last five years 2016-2020, 44 countries received wooden pallets from Indonesia for biomass-based power plants. The amount is 20,905 tons with an import value of 15.4 million US dollars. Japan and South Korea became the largest importing countries, reaching 14,888 tons with an import value of 11.7 million US dollars.

If currently the trial process uses 1 percent of the coal volume, at least the CPP requires 10 tons of pallets or wood chips per day, which will then continue to be increased to 10 percent. The consequence of this increase will have an impact on the longevity of the CPP and also the acquisition of new land for the fulfillment of raw materials.

“If the Indonesian government is serious about making an energy transition, the Indonesian government should focus more on looking at other opportunities for clean, renewable energy that is not based on massive forest land tenure which actually exacerbates the climate crisis. Burning pallets and wood chips is the same as burning a forest,” she said.

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Media contacts:

Sarah Agustio, Biomass campaigner and Researcher of Trend Asia

Ina, Communication Officer Trend Asia