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Jakarta Post

Walhi denounces coal-fired power plants

  • Hans Nicholas Jong

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, September 10, 2015   /  05:01 pm

Amid the country'€™s economic slowdown, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has urged the government to reduce its coal dependency in its plan to build power plants to produce 35,000 Megawatts (MW) of power in the next five years.

The government has lowered its economic growth projection in 2016 from 5.8-6.2 percent to 5.5-6 percent, below the projection included in PLN'€™s 2013-2022 master plan of 6.9 percent.

Based on the PLN projection, electricity demand is predicted to reach 7,000 MW per year, hence the government'€™s plan to produce 35,000 MW of power in the next five years.

'€œThe economic slowdown is the perfect moment to conserve natural resources instead of exploiting them massively. Developing renewable energy is more suitable because the social and environmental costs of fossil fuel actually slows down economic growth itself,'€ Walhi executive director Abetnego Tarigan said.

Walhi energy campaigner Pius Ginting said that coal-fired power plants (PLTUs) had been found to reduce the productivity of people living within their vicinity.

'€œIn our study during August 2015, Walhi found that farmers'€™ productivity declined in Jepara, Cirebon, due to dust from the burning of coal in power plants,'€ he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. '€œFine particles called PM2.5 and PM10 produced by PLTUs are extremely dangerous to health. Their ultra-fine size enables them to enter the bloodstream.'€

A recent study by Harvard University has found that increasing the number of PLTUs from 42 to 159 will increase the risk of death from air pollutants in Indonesia.

The government plans to build some 117 PLTUs in the next decade to meet the demand for more power.

The study revealed that air pollutants from the burning of coal at 42 existing power plants resulted in at least 6,500 deaths per year from strokes, heart and lung cancers and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

This number would rise to 15,700 if the 117 new plants were constructed. The 117 new plants do not include other plants that the current government plans to install in its ambition to produce another 20,000 megawatts of energy. The ambitious project includes the construction of the controversial plant in Batang, Central Java, which continues to face protests from locals in the area.

Besides their hazardous impact on health, PLTUs also increased costs for other sectors, such as the salt industry, said Pius.

'€œSalt water used in salt ponds turns black due to the activities of PLTUs as well as coal loading and unloading from ships,'€ he said. '€œThis increases costs and time needed for salt farmers to clean the water.'€

Pius added that PLTUs also affected plant life, with leaves turning black and dust covering their stomata and reducing their productivity.

It was, therefore, crucial for the government to alter its 35,000 MW electricity project as it was currently dominated by PLTUs in Java, accounting for 12,400 MW, he said.

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