Rising pollutant emissions from coal-based power plants in Indonesia is an urgent and immediate concern. Independent studies project three-times increase in sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions, and a two-times increase in particulate matter (PM) emissions during 2011–30 due to the country’s rapidly expanding power generation from coal, assuming existing power sector emission norms remain unchanged.
In order to address this challenge, Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) and New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment (CSE) jointly organized a roundtable titled Roadmap for Emission Control from Coal-based Power Sector in Indonesia’ on 23–24 May 2017 in Jakarta. It was attended by around forty delegates representing a wide range of stakeholders, including senior government regulators from Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR); officials from power plants including Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) subsidiaries, Indonesia Power, Cirebon Electric Power; civil society groups like Green peace Indonesia, the Indonesian Forum for Environment (WALHI), WWF Indonesia; and industry experts. The roundtable provided a platform for discussions on the central role of coal in the country’s electricity sector, the enormous environmental impact of its emissions and, consequently, the need to enact tighter emission standards.
The keynote addresses were delivered by Mr Dasrul Chaniago, Director of Air Pollution Control, MoEF and Mr Benhur PL Tobing, Head of Sub-directorate Environmental Electricity Protection, MEMR, both of whom acknowledged the need for revising existing emission standards, which are fairly loose. MoEF representatives confirmed that they are in the process of reviewing the standards, however, they could not provide any firm timelines for the revision.
The participants at the workshop voiced a general agreement that Indonesia should urgently tighten the emission standards for thermal power plants, in line with other major countries. Government representatives from MoEF and MEMR acknowledged that the steps taken by India and China and the standards implemented by these countries could serve as useful data points. Indeed, those standards could be modified for Indonesia based on the country’s thermal power fleet characteristics (age, size and technology) and environmental performance. Industry representatives at the event, from PLN subsidiaries and independent power producers (IPPs), also expressed their support for tighter norms for greater public good. Civil society representatives emphasized that introduction of new norms should not be delayed any further, especially in light of the planned increase in coal-based power capacity. Notably, the data presented by both MoEF and industry executives including Mr HeruDewanto, President-Director, Cirebon Electric Power, and representatives of PLN subsidiaries showed that the emissions of most large generation units are significantly lower than the existing standards. The generating companies expressed their ability and willingness to meet tighter standards if the government adequately addresses their concerns, such as financing of investments associated with upgrading or installing new pollution control equipment.