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Jakarta Post

PLN, coal companies in talks about prices

  • Fedina S. Sundaryani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 11, 2016   /  08:34 am

Following a study that predicted that Indonesia would struggle to provide coal for its power stations in the near future, the government will facilitate negotiations between coal miners and electricity companies to set a coal price that is economically feasible for both parties.

Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said stated on Thursday that the set coal price should allow for companies to continue exploration but at the same time be economically feasible for electricity companies wanting to buy the coal for their power plants.

'€œThe government should also play a role here. There will be a discussion process between [state-owned electricity company] PLN, the Indonesian Coal Mining Association [APBI] and IPPs [independent power producers] that use coal and we will then find a solution,'€ he said following a meeting with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin).

The government has continuously pushed to expedite a number of power plant projects under its ambitious 35,000 megawatt (MW) program, which is aimed at supporting the country'€™s economic growth.

Coal is expected to fulfil 66 percent of primary energy sources for the country'€™s power plants by 2024, which is equivalent to 361 gigawatt hours (GWh) output by coal-fired power plants.

However, a study conducted by APBI in cooperation with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Indonesia revealed that the country'€™s coal-fired power plants would not be able to provide the expected 20,000 MW for the next 25 to 30 years, based on current commodity prices.

The study, which surveyed 25 coal-mining companies, also showed coal-producer earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization had dropped by 60 percent to US$2.6 billion in 2014 from $6.5 billion in 2011. It is expected to decrease by 16 percent in 2015.

Government data suggests that Indonesia had around 32.2 billion tons of coal reserves in 2014. However, the study showed that with coal prices declining throughout last year, only between 7.3 and 8.3 billion tons of that coal is economically viable to mine. The preliminary projection indicates that these reserves will be depleted by 2033-2036, forcing the country to start importing coal by 2030.

'€œMining requires funds. If the price of coal is $50, while it costs $60 to mine, then the coal will automatically not be mined. It is as if we have a decrease in reserves,'€ APBI chairman Pandu P. Sjahrir said recently.

Coal prices have steadily declined over the past few years, amid oversupply and declining demand from major coal importer China.

Australia'€™s Newcastle coal price, an Asian benchmark, dropped to $53 per ton from a 2016 peak of $55.05 on March 1, as estimated by Reuters. Meanwhile, Indonesia'€™s coal reference price (HBA) this month has actually risen to $51.62 from February'€™s $50.92.

The report from the study recommended that the government set up a cost-based pricing system for coal, which would prevent the electricity prices from increasing.

'€œBased on our analysis, the government will have to pay some type of cost of insurance, which would be around 1 percent of the basic rate for new steam power plants, which will start operating in 2019, and 3 percent from the basic rates of power plants that had been built before,'€ APBI chaiman Pandu P. Sjahrir said.

The basic electricity rates for steam power plants that start operations in 2019 is around Rp 1,400 per kilowatt hour (kWh). If the cost of insurance is implemented, then the government will have to buy it for around Rp 1,414 per kWh.

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