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The Promise of Cheaper Energy: Coal Plants and Indonesia's Struggles

Oct 14, 2016 04:37 AM EDT
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Estimated to be US$ 51.22 per MWh, the true cost of coal-fired power in Indonesia actually goes triple at US$152 per MWh, after accounting all of its negative effects based from an in-depth news of The Jakarta Post.

Indonesia is known to have rich deposits of coal, leading its President Joko Widodo to plan for a 35 gigawatt additional energy for the country which includes 19 gigawatt from coal. This is with the assumption that the country will have an economic growth of 6 percent per annum and increased power demand of 7 percent, running from 2015 to 2019.

But the projections presented by Widodo seemed to be shaken after seeing the current trend of their economics -- last year, Indonesia's expected economic growth rate was not reached, with a growth rate of electricity only at 2 percent. Thus, the current scenario portrays future energy surplus based from the planning director of PLN.

Aside from the surplus, an international consultancy firm has also mentioned that Indonesia's deposits could already be depleted by 2033 on a business as usual computations, making coal as an unreliable source of energy which may run out after two decades.

It was also highlighted that the declaration of coal plant power's price is simply unrealistic. Though the figures are quite promising, being the cheapest source excluding geothermal capacities, the extraction and availability of the coal and technology should not be the only factors considered in computing for its real value.

Coal, when combusted, produces several hazardous byproducts. One of the most controversial emission of coal is CO2 which can affect global temperature and climate.

According to a study of UCS-USA, they have also itemized compounds contributed by coal burning such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matters, lead, cadmium, carbon monoxides and more. Meanwhile, a study from Greenpeace using the modeling system from Harvard University has shown that coal-fired power plants currently operating in Indonesia are causing 6,500 early deaths annually within the country.

On the estimate, coal plant's effect to health of Indonesians is computed at $26.7 billion, and that's only for a year of the plants' operations.

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