Jakarta, August 29, 2022-Trend Asia’s latest report reveals the magnitude of the risks that must be borne by communities, the environment and the climate from the biomass co-firing program at 52 coal power plant (CPP) locations in Indonesia. In the name of this “false energy transition”, the government needs an area of ​​2.33 million hectares or 35 times the land area of ​​DKI Jakarta to build an Energy Plantation Forest (HTE), while this biomass supply chain will increase Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26.48 million tons carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year.

Trend Asia report refutes the claim made by the government and the state electricity company, PT PLN, that the use of mixed biomass raw materials in the co-firing program at the CPP is low in emissions and reduces dependence on coal. This research critically examined the choice of PLN to implement the practice of co-firing biomass in Indonesia, by mapping various official government documents and business entities. Research findings are published in a series, with the first series themed “Contesting the Claim of Reducing Emissions”, which projects potential carbon emissions in the practice of co-firing biomass, especially wood pellets in Indonesia.

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. The scenario tested in this research for co-firing is on a scale of 5 percent biomass (95 percent coal) to 10 percent biomass (90 percent coal).

“Our research findings reveal that the practice of co-firing wood pellet biomass supplied with the HTE scheme is very risky in the supply chain process, the potential for deforestation is closely related to increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and will also prolong the life of old power plants that should have been retired such as Suralaya and Paiton CPP,” said Meike Inda Erlina, Campaigner at Trend Asia.

As of May 2022, as many as 32 CPPs have implemented biomass co-firing, and the target continues to grow to 35 CPPs by the end of this year. Not only that, PLN is also targeting the implementation of biomass co-firing in 52 locations or 107 CPP units throughout Indonesia until 2025. PLN claims that biomass co-firing is low in emissions, raw materials are easy to obtain, and there is no need to build a new power plant because it can use operating power plant, which is managed by 2 PLN subsidiaries, namely PT Indonesia Power and PT Pembangkitan Jawa Bali (PJB).

According to Trend Asia research team member, Mumu Muhadjir, assuming the practice of co-firing wood pellet biomass is up to 10 percent, the biomass needed for 107 steam power plants with a total capacity of 18.8 GW will reach 10.23 million tons per year. “From our calculations, the estimated need for HTE land is at least 2.33 million hectares or 35 times the land area of ​​DKI Jakarta. Building extensive HTE has the potential to cause deforestation,” he explained.

He added that the development of industrial forest plantations (HTI) until now has shown this trend. Referring to MapBiomas Indonesia data, 38 percent of the total land cover for HTI in 2019 came from natural forest clearing.

“From mathematical modeling, co-firing 10 percent of biomass in 107 CPP units has the potential to produce total emissions of up to 26.48 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year.” These emissions, said Mumu, arise from deforestation, HTE management and the production of wood pellets. Instead of decreasing, this biomass-coal mixing will increase emissions from CPP which in the 2021-2030 general design of electric power supply (RUPTL) is projected to continue to increase to 298.9 million tons of CO2e in 2030.

Another finding is that biomass co-firing does not reduce dependence on the use of coal-fired power plants. PLN Statistics data (2021) shows that the use of biomass is 282,628 tons, a significant increase from 9,731 tons in 2020. At the same time, the use of coal also rose to 68.47 million tons, from 66.68 million tons in 2020. “Substituting fuel becomes complementary,” added Mumu.

Meike also emphasized that the growing narrative regarding the portion of mixing biomass with coal ignores the fact that the demand for coal is still high in this co-firing program. “The impression is that this practice reduces the portion of coal used in the CPP, so this co-firing is cleaner, with lower emissions. In fact, the portion of mixed biomass is only a small amount, 1 to 10 percent, while 90 percent of it still comes from coal. Meanwhile, world climate scientists have reminded countries to keep coal in the ground and immediately stop using coal-fired power plants so as not to exacerbate the climate crisis,” she said.

Wahyudin Iwang, Advocacy Manager of WALHI West Java said that claims of low emissions from mixed biomass in the CPP will not be able to restore the damage to agricultural land and the health of communities that have occurred.

Air pollution is a risk factor that worsens the health of vulnerable age groups. WALHI West Java’s research since 2017 related to the operation of CPP Indramayu 1 with a capacity of 3×330 MW in Tegal Taman Village revealed that most children aged 2-7 years were exposed to acute respiratory infections (ARI). The complaint report has increased if it is calculated since the PLTU was built, namely 2011 until now.

“The mixing of coal raw materials with sawdust biomass that has been carried out at CPP Indramayu 1 will only exacerbate air pollution and now the smoke coming out of the chimney actually looks even thicker. We can’t imagine how the lungs of the children around the power plant are getting more and more threatened,” he said.

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. In June 2022, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (KESDM) in a press release stated that biomass co-firing is one of the government’s 4 strategies in reducing carbon emissions. In line with the KESDM, instead of retiring old power plants, PLN uses biomass co-firing as a step to reduce carbon emissions in order to extend the operational life of the power plant.

“Decarbonization is not just a transition from fossil energy to renewable sources, but also how to ensure the safety of living things. There are no climate and human safety gaps in this energy transition scheme with biomass co-firing. If the policy of co-firing biomass with coal is a mitigation action to address climate change, then instead of reducing carbon emissions in the energy sector, it will increase carbon emissions in other sectors (forestry), while co-firing is only used as an excuse to extend the operation of the steam power plant. who should have retired. The seriousness of the energy transition must be clearly demonstrated by prioritizing clean and equitable energy sources,” concluded Meike.


Access link:

Series 1 research report: https://trendasia.org/riset-bajak-transisi-energi-seri-1-adu-claim-lowering-emissions/ 

Related photos: s.id/FotoBiomassa

Streaming broadcast of research launch event: https://trendasia.org/en/videos/ 

Photo by: Jatam Kaltim/Trend Asia