Faster Shift from Coal to Clean Electricity can Save around 180,000 Lives in Indonesia

press release

Jakarta, July 18, 2023 – Cancelling new coal power projects and retiring Indonesia’s coal power plants by 2040 can avoid 180,000 deaths from air pollution and health costs of USD 100 billion over the next decades, based on new research titled Health Benefits of Just Energy Transition and Coal Phase-out in Indonesia from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR). 

A 2040 coal phase-out is required to meet Paris Agreement goals, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Indonesia is currently targeting a 2050 phase-out, with some exemptions.

Fabby Tumiwa, the Executive Director of IESR, emphasized that the government should urge utilities to reevaluate their  plans for constructing new power plants and take immediate action to transition towards renewable energy generation. This shift would lead to significant economic, social, and health benefits.

“At the summit of the G20 last year, Indonesia signed the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) joint statement, committing to reaching peak power sector emissions by 2030 with an absolute value of 290 million tonnes of CO2e. Achieving this target would entail retiring approximately 9 GW of the coal-fired power plants (CFPPs), within this decade. However, concerning the remaining CFPPs that have not yet reached decommissioning time, it is crucial to ensure that there are mitigation strategies to reduce these negative impacts. The implementation of these strategies should be an integral part of the solution for a just energy transition,” Fabby said.

The CREA and IESR research developed the first health-based coal power retirement pathway for Indonesia, based on detailed atmospheric modelling and plant-by-plant health impact assessments (HIAs). The pathway maximises the health benefits of shifting from coal to clean energy by retiring the most polluting coal power plants first.

Air pollutant emissions from coal power were responsible for 10,500 deaths in Indonesia in 2022, and health costs of USD 7.4 billion, according to the results of the research. This health toll is set to rise with the commissioning of new coal power plants. Power generation from coal will increase over the next decade, unless growth in clean power generation is accelerated to cover growth in demand.

Retiring coal power plants requires upfront investment. The faster retirement of coal by 2040 would result in avoided health costs to USD 130 billion (Rp 1930 trillion), while investment of USD 32 billion (Rp 450 trillion) would be needed to realise the phase-out, making the investment highly profitable for all of society.

“This research provides a list of power plants ranked according to their impact on the health costs per unit of generation, which could actually serve as an additional metric to be considered in making the plants retirement prioritization. This is particularly important input as the JETP secretariat is currently working on the Comprehensive Investment Plan and Policy (CIPP), in which coal retirement being one of the area investments included in the document,” said Raditya Wiranegara, Senior Researcher of IESR, and the contributor for the report.

An important reason for the large public health toll of coal power plants in Indonesia is that essentially all plants lack efficient air pollution emission control devices for pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury, due to lenient national emission standards. Stronger standards, requiring investment in air pollution controls, could avoid up to 8,300 deaths from air pollution per year by 2035, with the avoided health costs far exceeding the expenses associated with the technology.

“Our research shows that cutting emissions from coal power plants is not just good for health and well-being but can benefit Indonesians economically as well. The avoided health costs can more than compensate for investments needed to close down coal plants and to build clean electricity generation as a replacement,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, co-author of the report and Lead Analyst at CREA.

About the research

The analysis was done by (1) developing an unprecedentedly detailed plant-by-plant inventory of emissions from coal power plants in Indonesia; (2) simulating pollution dispersion from CFPPs using detailed atmospheric modelling; (3) quantifying air pollution health impacts resulting from changes in air pollutant concentrations; and (4) valuing health impacts in monetary terms using economic costs per case of different health outcomes compiled from the literature and transferred to Indonesia’s level of income and GDP per capita. Download this research on https://s.id/HealthBenefit-IESR

About IESR

The Institute for Essential Service Reform (IESR) is a think tank organization that actively promotes and strives for the fulfilment of Indonesia’s energy needs, upholding the principles of justice in natural resource utilisation and ecological sustainability. IESR engages in activities such as conducting analysis and research, advocating for public policies, launching campaigns on specific topics, and collaborating with diverse organizations and institutions.

About CREA

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) is an independent research organization focused on revealing the trends, causes, and health impacts, as well as the solutions, to air pollution. CREA uses scientific data, research, and evidence to support the efforts of governments, companies, and campaigning organisations worldwide in their efforts to move towards clean energy and clean air, believing that effective research and communication are the keys to successful policies, investment decisions, and advocacy efforts. CREA was founded in December 2019 in Helsinki and has staff in several Asian and European countries.