Friday, July 18, 2014

Indonesia Can Develop Biomass Energy

JakartaGlobe - Warsaw. Lack of non-renewable energy sources and an increasing need for renewable energy sources has forced Indonesia to shift gears and refocus its attention, it was revealed during the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change.

“Indonesia has tremendous potential to produce biomass, the market is there, we just need a policy to move forward,” Yetti Rusli, the special staffer for climate change at the Forestry Ministry told the Jakarta Globe during the side event of the conference.
“It’s no longer enough to have our full attention to anticipating climate change or emission reduction, it’s time for us to think about added values” she said.

Yetti said Indonesia could be one of the biggest biomass producers worldwide with its massive potential.

“We are very fortunate to have sunshine 11 hours a day, not to mention we are only second to Brazil when it comes to richness of biodiversity,” she said.

Unlike Brazil, Yetti said, Indonesia has the upper hand with most land being owned by the state.

“The private sector only has the licence to manage the land, they didn’t own it, unlike in Brazil where most land is owned by corporations.”

With the system, she said, it would be easier for the government to introduce a new policy, including prioritizing the production of new energy sources aside from emission reduction.

Unfortunately, feasibility studies about the potential of biomass production in Indonesia are still scarce.

However, she said, Indonesia could use studies that have been done by developed countries and make adjustments to suit domestic needs.

“Studies are conducted to obtain details and to determine the direction of the policy, to create a policy we can simply use best practices from developed countries.

“Even though we have different climate conditions, the need for a new source of energy is the same” Yetti said.

“Energy security in Indonesia is very fragile because we still have to subsidize it, even though the government has gradually reduced subsidies we still need to catch up with the oil prices, which have been very unstable. To answer this insecurity we need to come up with a renewable source of energy,” the Forestry Ministry staffer said. “Earlier there used to be a focus on developing nuclear energy as the new source of energy.”

She added that since the Fukushima incident, everybody started to look for something else, something more environmentally friendly, such as wind, solar, or biomass.

Producing biomass energy, Yetti said, would not be a totally foreign concept in Indonesia as a country which has been using firewood for centuries.

The experience could easily be translated into a more modern technique after thorough research, she said.

“It’s no longer enough to talk about stopping forest fires or encroachment, we need more.”

Moving forward

The Forestry Ministry has started a pilot project to see the feasibility of producing wood pellets, the material used to produce bio-methanol — believed to be carbon neutral — by planting red calliandra ( Calliandra Calothyrsus ) in Bangkalan, Madura.

“Calliandra is a nitrogen-fixing tree that helps in fixing the soil condition, and is very easy to prune,” Yeti said.

“The trees are quite large and are a good source of nutrition for livestock,” she added.

The government has allocated 170 hectares of land for the Calliandra plantation in Madura, but the community managed to add more and now has 200 hectares of land to cultivate. The construction of a wood pellet factory is now underway in Bangkalan and it is estimated the factory will be able to produce 4,000 metric tons of wood pellets every year.

“It’s not much, but this is a start and people will learn how to cultivate calliandra and produce wood pellets,” she said.

Local success

State plantation firm, Inhutani has managed to secure a business deal with a South Korean consortium consisting of several large companies who have pledged their commitment to build a wood pellet factory in Indonesia, which will be able to produce up to 100,000 tons of wood pellets every year.

“After South Korea, our next target is Sweden, the biggest user of wood pellets in Europe, and then the Netherlands and Italy,” she said.

According to Yetti, biomass production is the most feasible option for Indonesia in the near future because other green products, such as carbon credits are still being negotiated and will take a very long time.

“At the same time the developed countries have been asked to reduce emissions so the need for environmentally friendly energy is very high, which is why the transition product like biomass is in high demand,” she said.

The scheme to reduce emissions, Yetti said, can be combined with agro-forestry,

“As we know the agriculture sector has been accused as one of the main contributors of the emission,” she said.

Trees can retain water and regulate the water cycle, preventing damage to crops and help in the recovery of the agricultural area,” she added.

Head of Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Insitute at the Ministry of Agriculture (IAERI), Prihasto Setyanto said climate change has a direct impact on the Indonesian agriculture sector.

“People think climate change will impact their lives in the future — in the next few decades — but it’s not true, it’s happening now, it’s affecting our daily lives,” he said.

Prihasto said the agriculture sector has a lot of potential and can be used as a very powerful tool to help reducing carbon emissions.

One of the programs is the sustainable food reserve garden where people are encouraged and educated to make the best use of their own back- or front yards to cultivate some basic commodity.

“In 2010, because of climate change, it rained practically all year long, the farmers could not plant chillies. As a result, in 2011, the price of chillies soared to Rp 120,000 ($10.35) per kilogram. We even had to hold a special cabinet meeting because people were demonstrating across the country, it was that serious,” he said.

With the sustainable food reserve garden, Prihasto said, people would be able to fulfill their domestic needs by a simple farming method.

“And please don’t think the threat of climate change is not real, every 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature raise will cause a 10 percent drop of our rice harvest. If the prediction was correct that Indonesia will suffer from 4 to 5 degree Celsius temperature increase, our crop will drop by half, we can’t let that happen,” he said.

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