The Aspirations of the Communities for the NERE Bill

Jakarta, 19 May 2022 – Decarbonization of the energy sector as one of the largest emitters in Indonesia needs to be carried out to achieve the net-zero target in 2060 or sooner. Thus, Indonesia should prepare supporting policies for development of renewable energy. However, based on the draft of the New Energy and Renewable Energy Bill (NERE) has entered the harmonization stage in the Indonesian House of Representatives, various organizations representing certain community groups view that the draft NERE bill deviates from its goal of encouraging the sustainable use of renewable energy.

Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), Bersihkan Indonesia, Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia (KPI), Masyarakat Energi Terbarukan Indonesia (METI), Adidaya Initiative, Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia (YLKI) dan Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL)  held discussions and conferences press to convey their aspirations to the NERE bill.

IESR highlights the ambiguity of the NERE bill that mixes fossil, nuclear and renewable energy in one bill. According to IESR, the new energy resource, such as a downstream product of coal and nuclear power plants, will increase the potential for stranded assets and will not significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“This bill is heavily influenced by the interests of the status quo, the coal and nuclear industries, which sneak in using the new energy definition. The implication is making this bill blurred on developing renewable energy that strongly needs political encouragement and regulatory framework to develop it quickly, supporting the goal of the energy transition,” said Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director of IESR.

Likewise, Ahmad Ashov Birry, Coordinator of Bersihkan Indonesia (BI), encouraged the Indonesian House of Representatives to prepare policies that support renewable energy.

“Instead, the NERE bill that claims to support renewable energy blatantly obscures a possible renewable energy future for Indonesia by making way for fossil and other harmful energy to be associated as renewable energy. This can be an unclear signal for the international community that wants to support Indonesia in solidarity with its transition. There is still an opportunity for change, and the government must take bold steps to change it,” said Ahmad.

The co-founder of the Adidaya Initiative, Aji Said Iqbal Fajri, conveyed three main points of pressure for Commission VII of the DPR RI.

“We request that Commission VII of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (DPR-RI) remove all forms of non-renewable energy as a new energy source in the NERE bill. Second, Commission VII of the DPR-RI and related stakeholders regulate incentives for  renewable energy to achieve the new and renewable energy mix target of 23% by 2025 as stated in the General National Energy Plan (RUEN). Third, Commission VII of the DPR-RI and related stakeholders to consider scientific suggestions and aspirations of the community from various groups in preparing the NERE bill as an effort to increase economic growth while increasing decarbonization efforts in the energy sector to achieve economic and environmental justice in Indonesia.”

Questioning incentives for renewable energy users, Chairman of the Yayasan Lembaga Konsumen Indonesia (YLKI) Tulus Abadi said the NERE bill must regulate significant incentives, both fiscal and non-fiscal for renewable energy’s consumers.

Furthermore, the Executive Director of the Masyarakat Energi Terbarukan Indonesia (METI), Paul Butarbutar said that the NERE bill should be the legal basis for maximizing investment in the renewable energy  sector. 

“This bill should focus on renewable energy, therefore, it can be a strong legal basis, which provides legal certainty to maximize investment in renewable energy, as part of the energy transition to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible. Thus, all articles related to new energy, terms that are not known internationally, can be abolished,” explained Paul.

Meanwhile, he also added that if the government and the nuclear power plant industry intend to encourage the use of nuclear energy, the government should prioritize the revision of Law 10 of 1997 on Nuclear Energy. If it is related to the energy transition, they can revise Law No. 30 of 2007.

“If the government wants to encourage the use of nuclear power for a generation, the government should prioritize the revision of Law 10 of 1997, so that it can be used as a strong legal basis for nuclear power plant investment. Moreover, the utilization of nuclear power plants based on the government’s roadmap is still long to be realized, so the government has sufficient time to revise Law 10 of 1997. There is no urgency to include nuclear energy in this bill. Regarding the energy transition, it is not proper to include it in this bill. What needs to be done is to revise Law 30 of 2007 to accommodate issues of the energy transition, net-zero emission, NDC, and the Paris Agreement in the energy sector,” explained Paul.

Carrying the aspirations of farmers and fishermen, Harmanto, Head of the Media, Communication and Information Department of the Kelompok Tani Nelayan Andalan (KTNA) said that his party firmly rejects the development of nuclear power plants. According to him, farmers and fishermen around the nuclear power plant will be the disadvantageous group affected by the development of the nuclear power plant, especially if there is an accident at the nuclear power plant.

“NPP requires an exclusive zone that is a huge area. So, it has the potential to take up large areas such as large coastal areas. It can displace farmers’ land and limit fishermen’s access to the sea. It has been seen from some large coal-fired power plant constructions on the north coast of Java, which has displaced farmers’ land and hampered fishermen’s access to the sea, as well as changing fishing areas. In addition, the risk of a nuclear power plant accident is not zero. Reactor accidents can result in radiation leaks that impact the land, water, and sea. In Fukushima, radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is dumped into the sea and makes people afraid to eat fish,” explained Harmanto.

On the other hand, the Komisi Perempuan Indonesia (KPI), Mike Verawati Tangka asked the DPR RI to pay more attention to the voice and position of women in energy policy making. The principles of equality and social inclusion must be the perspective of energy governance from upstream to downstream in energy policies that are being prepared by the parliament and government. The article on community participation in the NERE bill must ensure that all elements of society, such as women and other marginalized groups can be fully involved in access to sustainable clean energy by ensuring gender-based representation. This needs to be done because women and other marginalized groups are still positioned as limited energy consumers so that when the energy crisis occurs they face more severe consequences.

“Gender mainstreaming is not only limited to mentioning terms in energy policy but must be operationalized within the framework of its implementation. Such as incorporating specific gender goals into the design of energy sector development and empowering and involving women and marginalized groups through consultation, participation, and decision making. Then develop a gender-specific strategy to maximize benefits for women and the poor in overcoming the impacts of new and renewable energy development,” said Mike.

Agreeing with the aspirations conveyed, Sonny Keraf, an academician from Atma Jaya Catholic University, added that the NERE bill is a ‘poco-poco dance’ which is a step forward and a step backward, because they are hijacked and imprisoned by dirty fossil traders to preserve their at the expense of humanity’s common interest in saving the earth’s crisis.

“There are too many negative impacts if we stick with the ‘poco-poco dance’. The credibility of the government’s global diplomacy of climate change negotiations could be eroded. Exports of domestic industrial products can be interfered with by the provisions of emission standards in the entire production chain and supply chain of our products. Our commitment to climate change mitigation has been hampered,” he said.***

Climate Emergency Should be the Main Consideration of Energy Policy

The race to address climate change is getting tighter and more challenging. Each country is demanded to revisit its energy policy on time basis and align it with the Paris Agreement i.e to limit global temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius in 2050. The energy sector, as one of the most polluting sectors, is under the spotlight to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, one of which is by choosing the most suitable less polluting power plant to supply energy needs. 

The nuclear power plant is in a debatable position related to its ability to provide clean energy. For years, countries like France, Germany, and Japan have relied on nuclear power to fulfill their  energy demand. However, there are haunting challenges such as the long construction period, relatively high cost, and the most alarming is the safety issue of the generator. The world notes at least two major nuclear accidents i.e Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011. Even the Chernobyl accident in 1986 still lingers in our mind as its impact is still happening today.

Commemorating the Chernobyl accident, on April 26th 2022,  Unika Soegijapranata and Masyarakat Rekso Bumi (Marem) hosted a webinar, titled “Reflection on Chernobyl Accident and Nuclear Option for Indonesia Power Sector”,  reflecting on the accident three decades ago and its correlation on Indonesia’s discourse to have nuclear power plant to provide reliable energy supply and to seize the net-zero emission target by 2060. 

Herman Darnel Ibrahim, a member of Indonesia’s National Energy Council, stated that Indonesia is still able to fulfill the net zero emissions target without having nuclear power plants. 

“By maximizing all kinds (variable) of renewable energy in Indonesia, especially solar and wind whose cost is continuously declining, we may not need nuclear to be net-zero,” Herman said.

Herman continued to explain that the global capacity of nuclear power keeps declining. New nuclear power plants coming online are fewer than those decommissioning. Besides that, there is also a concern about construction delays. 

“There are generally delays on construction of nuclear power plants up to 3 years, even more, this is, of course, adding up the construction cost and LCOE.”

The lengthy construction period became the concern of Mycle Schneider, an international nuclear consultant, who emphasized the time urgency in deciding the energy policy.

“Please keep in mind that the state we are in now is a climate emergency, which means it includes time pressure. To address this of course we need fast and relatively cheap solutions,” Mycle said.

Compared to other available options such as renewables or energy efficiency, nuclear power plant construction is considered the slowest option, which makes it irrelevant to address the provision of clean energy to align with the net-zero target.

Mycle added that even the nuclear industry cannot really forecast the future of the nuclear power plants. One in eight nuclear reactors that finished the construction never made it to the grid. 30 of 55 nuclear reactors currently under construction are behind schedule. In general, there is an increasing gap between nuclear perception and (nuclear) industrial reality. 

“In the coming years, decision making for energy policy should not be based on economics only, but should be based on feasibility and industrial reality,” Mycle concluded in his presentation.

Reflections on 11 Years of the Fukushima Accident

Jakarta, March 11, 2022 – On March 11, 2011 an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale rocked Tohoku. The nuclear reactor automatically stops operating and is replaced by a diesel generator to cool the core reactor. However, the 14-meter high tsunami that came later stopped the diesel generator and flooded the nuclear power plant. As a result 3 nuclear nuclei melt and release radioactive material. The Fukushima disaster is categorized as a level 7 nuclear disaster (the highest level made by the International Nuclear Agency), and the largest since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Even though 11 years have passed since the nuclear reactor accident at Fukushima, the impact is still being felt by Japanese people. In addition, this incident affected a Japanese energy system which at that time was heavily dependent on nuclear plants and the development of nuclear energy around the world.

Since the tragic incident, the world’s nuclear generating capacity has continued to decline, and countries have reviewed their long-term energy plans. Germany, for example, decided to phase-out nuclear power plants; the last 3 nuclear power plants will be retired at the end of 2022. Several other countries are also planning to phase out nuclear power plants in 2025 – 2030. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 noted that Japan had temporarily suspended the use of nuclear plants and even reached 0 in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, the Government of Japan began operating its nuclear plants again, and currently 10 nuclear power plants are operating and supplying 3.9% of Japan’s energy mix.

Tatsujiro Suzuki, Professor and Vice Director of the Research Center for Nuclear Weapon abolition at Nagasaki University (RECNA), in a webinar entitled “The Dynamics of Development of Nuclear Power Plants After the Fukushima Accident” which was held Friday, March 11, 2022, said that the impact of the Fukushima accident had not been completed until today. A number of areas in Fukushima are still closed, although the area affected is reduced. Contamination of water and agricultural products is still happening today.

“From the operational point of view of the nuclear plants that are currently running, there are additional costs to ensure the operational safety of each plant,” explained Suzuki.

JCER (Japan Center for Economic Research) estimates the need for recovery after the Fukushima accident to reach 322 – 719 trillion USD. This figure is higher than the Japanese government’s estimate of 74.3 – 223.1 trillion USD. The government’s calculation is lower because the cost of final disposal of waste is not included in the calculation.

The Japanese public’s perception of nuclear power plants also changed direction after the Fukushima accident. More than half of the Japanese population (56.4%) stated that nuclear power plants should be discontinued and closed immediately.

Member of the National Energy Council, Herman Darnel Ibrahim, highlighted the increasing investment costs of nuclear power plants, and their high security risks.

“The LCOE of nuclear power is considered high at 8-12 cents USD according to the world nuclear agency, even reaching 12-16 cents USD according to Schneider. The existence of a nuclear power plant also creates a feeling of insecurity for the surrounding population,” explained Herman.

Nuclear power plants (PLTN) are discoursed as one of Indonesia’s strategies to achieve net-zero emissions by 2060 or sooner. With the massive utilization of renewable energy (75% of renewable energy variables are included in the electricity grid), the development of energy storage systems to reduce the cost of developing renewable energy will make the downward trend of LCOE (Levelized Cost of Energy) for solar and wind energy with batteries thus make it more economical than the cost of building a nuclear power plant.

M.V Ramana, Professor and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues of British Columbia University, agrees that nuclear power plants carry major risks. Currently, there are no nuclear plants with ‘zero risk accident’, even the SMR (Small Modular Reactor) technology which is considered safe, still has the potential for accidents.

“Technically, there is no universal design for various places and geographical situations for the construction of nuclear power plants. The risk of accidents, and radioactive waste requires a system that is designed contextually with the local location and situation. This requires an in-depth study,” explained Ramana.

Ramana alluded to the growing perception of nuclear power as a solution to the problem of climate change because it can produce energy with low emissions. According to him, the cost of building a nuclear power plant is higher than currently available technologies, such as solar or wind power plants, which are safer and more affordable.

Ramana explained that statistically, the number of nuclear plants in the world continues to decrease. One of them is because nuclear power is no longer economical. The peak of the development of nuclear power plants was more than 3 decades ago, after that the number of power plants built continued to decline.

“In the future, even in the most optimistic scenario, nuclear plants will only contribute 10% to the global energy mix,” Ramana explained.