Digging Deeper into the Impact of the Energy Transition on Coal Producing Regions

Jakarta, 21 November 2023 – Indonesia is one of the largest coal exporting countries in the world. Coal production in Indonesia is concentrated in four provinces, namely East Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, North Kalimantan and South Sumatra. The coal or mining sector is a significant component of the local economy of these coal producing regions.

The global energy transition agenda means that every country has the potential to reduce coal demand. This will be the main threat to coal-producing provinces if it is not addressed strategically.

Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), in the Media Dialogue: Just Transition in Coal Producing Regions in Indonesia stated that the trend of decreasing coal production will be felt starting in 2025 based on IESR projections.

“Starting from this hypothesis, we try to look at four aspects of the energy transition in coal producing areas, namely the employment sector, local communities who are economically dependent on the mining industry, regional income and expenditure budget (APBD) revenues, and the regional economy as a whole,” said Fabby.

For this reason, Fabby emphasized the importance of preparing coal producing regions to make the transition because there will be a significant economic impact if the transition process is not prepared now.

Syahnaz Nur Firdausi, IESR climate and energy analyst, explained that one of the main findings of this study was the significant contribution of the mining sector to regional income.

“The mining sector’s contribution to GRDP is 50% in Muara Enim and 70% in Paser. However, this large contribution is not directly proportional to the added value to labor wages or other multiplier effects. In other words, the profits from the mining sector are mostly enjoyed by companies, not the surrounding community,” said Syahnaz.

Martha Jessica, social and economic analyst at IESR, added that there is a gap in understanding between the community, local government and mining companies. Mining companies are aware of the trend to switch to renewable energy, and they are indeed planning to transition.

“There needs to be communication between companies, local governments and communities regarding the company’s transition plans and new business models so that local governments and communities can prepare,” said Martha.

The findings of the IESR study were agreed by representatives of the Muara Enim and Paser regional governments. Head of Muara Enim Regional Planning Agencies, Mat Kasrun, stated that his regional economic growth was exclusive.

“Economic growth in Muara Enim is around 8.3% in 2023, but the extreme poverty rate is still at 2.9%. This means that high economic growth is only enjoyed by a handful of people,” he said.

Conditions in Paser district are more or less similar where the contribution of the mining sector to regional income is very huge. Rusdian Noor, Secretary of Regional Planning Agencies for Paser district, stated that his region needs special assistance to face this era of energy transition.

“75% of Paser district’s income in 2022 contributed by the mining and agricultural sectors, and much of the GRDP spending allocation is for infrastructure development. If we immediately switch to clean energy and the mine is no longer operating, we will no longer be able to carry out development. Thus, we need special assistance so that with this transition, we don’t lose (economic, ed) power,” said Rusdian.

Reynaldo G. Sembiring, Executive Director of the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), responded to this study by underlining the limited authority of regional governments in energy matters. For this reason, a comprehensive approach is needed to ensure the transition process runs fair and smooth.

“A just transition is a transition that supports ecosystem recovery and repair. This energy transition could be a momentum for policy harmonization between the national and sub-national government,” he said.

Nikasi Ginting, Secretary General of the DPP FPE Confederation of All Indonesian Trade Unions, highlighted the gap in the number of workers needed from this energy transition.

“An example of what happened in Sidrap in 2013, when the wind power plant construction process required up to 4,480 workers, but when it was completed and during the operational phase, only hundreds of workers were needed. The fate of those thousands of workers must be a common concern,” she concluded.

The complete report of “Just Transition in Coal Producing Regions in Indonesia” can be downloaded here.