Innovators in Indonesia advancing renewable energy as per the Indonesian government strategy that is pushing to almost triple, shortly, the share of renewables in the country’s energy mix. Let us see how.
The Indonesian government promises to almost triple the share of renewables in its energy mix in the next three years. That would reverse an investment climate in which fossil fuels saw 3 times more capital than renewable energy between 2016 and 2019. It would also require the nation’s monopoly power provider, Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), to approve new projects at a rate that entrepreneurs don’t expect now. Moreover, all the distribution to customers is strictly handled by the state-owned company.
Accordingly, entrepreneurs work with global networks to improve the state’s literacy and risk appetite. One network is the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator. The CEIA works as a joint endeavor coordinated by Allotrope Partners, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to accelerate renewable energy solutions for large electricity consumers in key emerging markets. CEIA brings together corporate buyers in Indonesia and magnifies their joint ideas to develop an enabling regulatory environment for accelerating renewable energy investment and use.
“How renewable energy fluctuates were claimed to be the greatest risk by potential investors to Indonesia,” says Rio Pramudita, a business development analyst for developer Akuo Energy. Because of the intermittent nature of renewable energy, the state-owned company must be ready to supply the client if renewable energy is unavailable. “Renewable energy faced some hurdles because they have to ‘pay’ for the uncertainty that PLN has to bear,” says Pramudita. In that context, a range of partners use a range of tools to promote the country’s renewable ecosystem.
Can renewable energy thrive in Indonesia’s current energy landscape?
Since its inception in 2018, CEIA has formed a taskforce in Indonesia that comprised of more than 25 corporate buyers. These corporate buyers are global firms with operations in Indonesia. They are among the companies who wish to source their energy from renewable sources but have discovered there is limited supply.There are reasons to discern a clean-energy economy growth curve in the country.
Independent Power Producers (IPP) that generate renewable energy remain limited in Indonesia. Currently, they supply 26 percent of national energy, and most lack transmission and distribution connections to sell energy directly to end users. Building distribution lines, of course, is expensive: The other option is to lease existing ones through PLN. “Transmission and distribution lines are a strategic asset of the state,” says Gina Lisdiani, director of Allotrope Partners Indonesia, part of the Clean Energy Investment Accelerator Indonesia.
“Because Indonesia is an archipelago, this transmission and distribution network becomes even more critical,” adds Lisdiani.
Although this means that IPPs generally cannot sell directly to end consumers, or be off the grid, some companies in Indonesia use their own solar panels to operate their factories and manufacturing facilities. For example, PT. Coca Cola Amatil Indonesia has this kind of solar panel arrangement with a capacity of 7.13 MW. However, an arrangement such as this is not completely off the grid. If something goes wrong and the supply falls below what the factory requires to run, PLN would supply electricity to the factory.
If industry has more supply than it needs (such as during the Eid Mubarak vacation period), they can sell it to PLN, a practice known as net metering. PLN smiles on this innovation, perhaps because it improves electrical supply without requiring new investment. “Net metering exists in Indonesia. In some cases, the PLN can reduce the price by roughly 35 percent. The process for obtaining a permit, or simply determining whether it is possible, is not uniform and depends on the location and permit by PLN regional office in the area,” adds Lisdiani.
Private-sector renewable energy purchasing
For generating and distributing renewable energy without running into the corruption that comes with permits, CEIA has worked with PLN to create and disseminate a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). “It is hoped that it could serve as a catalyst for PLN to build and/or permit more renewable energy projects,” says Lisdiani.
Renewable energy certificates provide a simple way for businesses, institutions and individuals to offset their carbon footprint and support renewable energy. As more companies proclaim commitment to climate action and renewable energy, purchasing RECs allows businesses to source their energy from renewable sources. When demand rises, the possibility to create renewable energy power plants rises with it.
“They [corporate buyers] are also concerned about whether a renewable energy power plant has reached its break-even point. They would rather fund and incentivize generation that is not yet profitable [so they can realize higher returns in the future]. This is critical in order to assist project developers who wish to launch a renewable energy project in Indonesia,” Lisdiani says.
These enabling conditions and potential incentives are essential for project developers from the start of the project. “A new project developer without a portfolio will face enormous challenges. One of them is obtaining financing from a bank,” Lisdiani explains. “And REC has the opportunity to play a significant role in resolving some of the issues.”
The first solar off-grid system in Indonesia to serve communities
Despite hurdles, there are reasons to discern a clean-energy economy growth curve in the country. Akuo Energy, a renewable energy developer, has developed the first solar off-grid electrification systems that powers three villages in Berau, Kalimantan.
Because Akuo Energy is off-grid, it both generates and distributes energy directly to customers without running through the state pricing system. This project was mostly funded by the Millennium Account Challenge Indonesia and United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The solar off-grid is managed by a joint venture between Akuo Energy and the village-owned company (Badan Usaha milik Desa; Bumdes), with the latter owning the majority.One common misconception is that since Indonesia is a tropical country situated on the Equator, we would have been able to deploy solar energy everywhere.
The joint venture was able to obtain the required permit by presenting their project in front of the ministry, emphasizing the importance of electricity access in these three villages and how their distance from the transmission line is so far that the state-owned company cannot benefit from it. There is also a regulation that restricts the price they may charge customers; the ceiling is the price set by the state-owned company. If the joint venture wishes to raise the price above what the state-owned company has set, they must present the case to the Regional House Representative with rigorous justification.
“One common misconception is that since Indonesia is a tropical country situated on the Equator, we would have been able to deploy solar energy everywhere,” says Pramudita, who trained as a mechanical engineer. “There is a lot of heat in Indonesia, but what we need for solar panels are photons. As a result, different renewable energy technologies would be appropriate in different parts of Indonesia.”
Some parts of Indonesia are cloudy most of the year, while others are not. East Nusa Tenggara is one of the few places in the world where it is never cloudy. “Other locations such as some parts of Sumatera, the south coast of Papua, and West Java are not suitable for solar panels but are suitable for wind turbines,” explains Pramudita. Indeed, a study shows that Sukabumi and Garut, in West Java, are among the potential sites for wind turbines.
In a challenging environment, organizations and businesses such as these show a way forward. CEIA brings together renewable energy buyers and consolidates a unified voice to the government, whereas Akuo Energy is able to operate off-grid solar panels. This demonstrates a few of the opportunities for patient renewable energy investment in Indonesia.
Renewables are becoming more affordable and accessible. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that the cost of electricity coming from utility-scale solar power fell 82 percent between 2010 and 2019, and clean power technologies such as solar and wind are undercutting even the cheapest coal-fired power plants.
science alert‘s article by Eva Hamrud asked a good question, that if there were 100% Renewable Energy Feasible For Entire Countries? The answer is literally in the question and is elaborated on.
The picture above is for illustration and is of pv magazine
Is 100% Renewable Energy Feasible For Entire Countries? Why, Yes Actually
In order to mitigate the global impacts of climate change, we need to dramatically reduce our carbon emissions, or even better – stop emitting completely. Many countries have recognized the need to switch from fossil fuels to renewable or ‘green’ energy in order to do this.
Whilst most of us are in homes that are powered from a mixture of sources from coal to wind, is it feasible that one day everything will be solely from renewable energy sources?
We asked 22 experts in renewable energy, engineering, and energy systems ‘Is having 100 percent renewable energy for a country feasible?’. Fifteen answered likely, here is what we found out.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is energy that can be quickly replenished. Oil and coal take millions of years to be made, so aren’t renewable. Nuclear power uses uranium, also non-renewable. But anything sourced by shorter-term forces in nature like the sun, moon or rain are renewable.
Geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, tidal and biomass are all forms of renewable energy as they will not run out in the near future. The capacity for renewable energy is enormous:
“The Earth receives 23000 TW of solar energy, while the global energy consumption is 16 TW. Therefore, [100 percent renewable energy] could be possible even if we capture only 0.07 percent of the solar energy” says Professor Xiao Yu Wu, an energy expert from MIT.
Technically, is 100 percent renewable energy feasible?
Iceland power near 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, using their abundant geothermal and hydro supplies. Renewable energy can also dominate electricity needs for more populous countries too.
About 80 percent of Brazil’s electricity needs for its 209million people come from renewable sources, biomass and hydro mostly. On average, however, renewables power ~29 percent of electricity around the world. So can renewables reach 100 percent for populous countries?
In 2017, Professor Mark Jacobson and colleagues from Stanford University published a scientific paper outlining a roadmap for 139 countries to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
Prof Jacobson, an expert in renewable energy and climatology, describes how this paper, along with many other studies, make up a “body of work, carried out by over 85 authors and 35 peer-reviewers, [which] is further supported by an additional 30 peer-reviewed studies that find it is possible to match demand with supply with 100 percent or near-100 percent renewable energy systems.”
Such studies are based on models which predict future scenarios and test different power systems to see if they are able satisfy energy demands. As with any kind of modelling, it can be challenging to estimate all of the parameters correctly.
Dr Mark Delucchi, an expert in energy systems and economics from California University, highlights some of these complexities, “the question of feasibility boils down to a few basic kinds of issues: how we model demand-side behavior in the face of radically different energy systems; how we quantify the costs and performance of existing or near-future energy technologies; and how we handle impacts that are not easily quantified in dollars (e.g., risks of nuclear power)”.
Other experts disagree with the idea that renewables could reach 100 percent for most countries. Benjamin Heard, from the University of Adelaide, with colleagues published a paper reviewing the feasibility of 100 percent renewable electricity systems.
He argues that there is a heavy reliance on hydro and biomass sources – while most countries don’t have access to these, so would be reliant on sources like solar, wind, and storage. In those circumstances, it’s highly unlikely for renewables to power 100 percent of the electricity supply he says.
What are the challenges with 100 percent renewable energy?
Some experts highlighted concerns about reliability.
“Every once in a while, you see energy shortages in renewables production. This is because the wind and solar just have low production days in energy…If you miss a day of production in renewables you have to fire up the gas generators to fill in the demand” says Dr Eugene Preston, an expert in renewable energy from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the USA.
Battery and energy storage solutions are one option to help with this in the future.
Yet it seems the barriers to moving towards 100 percent renewable energy are more economic and political some experts say.
“Feasible in terms of what? If it’s feasibility in terms of technology, it seems likely… If it’s feasibility in terms of the necessary policy, financing, and institutional drivers, it is less likely, unless current political, economic, and institutional/governance systems are adequately perturbed” says Professor Laurence Delina, an expert in renewable energy from Boston University.
Despite some debate, most experts agreed that 100 percent renewable energy was feasible. Is it economically or politically feasible – that’s a very different question.
Hybrid technology trial aims for smooth integration of renewable energy by Professional Engineering is an eye opener into what is currently going on behind the scene.
4 December 2020
A new hybrid system will inject or absorb energy from the transmission network to maintain voltage levels as renewable power levels fluctuate.
The technology, being tested in a new year-long trial at Hitachi ABB Power Grids, could aid the smooth transition from conventional energy generation to renewable power by compensating for variable sources such as wind and solar. SP Energy Networks, the University of Strathclyde and the Technical University of Denmark are also involved in the trial.
The system combines a static compensator (statcom) with a synchronous condenser. The result can deliver a combination of fast reaction, spinning capacity and short circuit control, injecting or absorbing energy to keep voltage levels within the required limits. It will provide a spinning reserve over a few seconds until other resources, such as batteries or reserve generators, can be brought online.
Electricity regulator Ofgem funded the Phoenix project, which started in 2018. The outcome of the project, including the new trial, is expected to contribute cumulative savings of over 62,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, equivalent to the electricity use of over 6,000 homes.
Hitachi ABB Power Grids installed the hybrid solution, a strategic 275 kilovolt (kV) substation on SP Energy Networks’ transmission network near Glasgow. The project partners will evaluate the installation’s performance over the year-long trial.
“While power stations produce a steady and constant flow of energy, renewable energy generators like wind and solar can fluctuate as they respond to different weather conditions,” said Niklas Persson, managing director of Hitachi ABB Power Grids’ grid integration.
“This pioneering hybrid solution combines existing technology with an innovative control system that will enable a reliable and stable energy supply, while accelerating the UK towards a carbon neutral future.”
Colin Taylor, director of processes and technology at SP Energy Networks, said: “I’m very proud that we have been able to drive forward with the Phoenix project this year, despite the recent pandemic and its challenges.
“This world-first innovative project has just reached a key milestone following the commencement of its live trial. Technology like this allows us to accommodate even more renewable generation on our electricity system while maintaining levels of system stability and resilience.”
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Wind and solar are now as cheap as the cheapest fossil fuel power, if not cheaper. And these price comparisons typically do not include the costs of climate change, air pollution, and price variability from fossil fuels. Those costs represent an enormous subsidy for fossil fuels and, if you include them, fossil fuels become far more expensive than renewable energy. Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist who studies both the science and politics of climate change, explains how greed and politics are slowing the switch to renewable energy.
The image above is a Photo by Dan Meyers/Unsplash
January 17, 2022
It is (with apologies to Charles Dickens) the best of times; it is the worst of times.
Thanks to fossil fuels, billions of people in 2022 enjoy lives of wealth, comfort, and material possessions unimaginable before the industrial revolution.
But fossil fuels have their dark side. You might think you understand that, but it’s likely fossil fuels are even worse for the world than you think. Let’s start with climate change. Contrary to what you might hear listening to Fox News, the scientific understanding of climate change is good and it is progressing at exactly the rate predicted decades ago by Exxon.
What you probably don’t realize is how massive these changes may be. In the depths of the last ice age 20,000 years ago, the Earth was only 6 degrees Celsius colder than it is today. That world—with thousands of feet of ice sitting over much of North America, sea level 300 feet lower, and completely different ecosystems—would be unrecognizable to those living on today’s Earth.
This helps us put predictions of future warming into context. The chart below shows predictions for the twenty-first century, but instead of units of temperature, I have plotted units of ice ages, where one ice age unit equals 6 degrees Celsius. Business-as-usual emissions gives us about 3 degrees Celsius of warming in 2100—about half of one ice-age unit. Given how much the Earth has changed since the last ice age, 3 degrees Celsius of warming may well remake the planet, leading to an Earth in 2100 as unrecognizable to us today as the world of the last ice age.
The earth is presently about 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, so we have already warmed about 17 percent of an ice age, and the impacts are clear. For example, there is widespread agreement in the scientific community that climate change contributed to the unprecedented rainfall during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and that the massive heatwave in the Pacific Northwest last year could not have occurred without global warming.
But fossil fuels are even worse than that. As commodities whose price is set on the world market, international politics can cause the price to whipsaw. Oil price spikes associated with Middle East conflicts, oil embargoes, and other political events have often been followed by painful economic recessions. In 2020, the price of oil dropped significantly because of the coronavirus pandemic combined with a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. This laid waste to the US oil industry, bankrupted oil producers, and increased unemployment.
As a consequence, US foreign policy over the last 70 years has been hyper focused on maintaining stability in the world energy market. This has led the United States, for example, to invade Iraq twice, first in 1990 and then again in 2003, starting wars that cost the United States trillions of dollars; hundreds of thousands of lives of people of many nationalities were lost.
Putting everything together, one conclusion is clear: Fossil fuels are terrible. While many people in 2022 are living much better lives because of fossil fuels, people in 2100 will be much worse off because of them.
The story doesn’t end there. The world needs power. People need it so much, in fact, that as bad as fossil fuels are, people would continue to use them if there were no alternatives. But we do have an alternative: renewable energy. This means primarily wind and solar energy, although other energy sources (e.g., geothermal) will also play a role. Non-renewable energy sources such as nuclear could provide another source of climate-safe energy.
The amount of renewable energy available is almost unfathomable. Human society consumes about 15 terawatts of power. Sunlight falling on the earth provides more than 100,000 terawatts, enough to power 7,000 human civilizations. There are obviously issues with the intermittency of solar and wind. The sun is not always shining everywhere, not at night nor when it is cloudy. Similarly, the wind does not always blow.RELATED:Climate scientist: “It’s already worse than what I imagined”
However, a hugeamount of research has gone into how to build a reliable energy system that relies predominantly on intermittent renewable energy. First, wind and solar power tend to be uncorrelated, so a system combining these energy sources will have more consistent power than a system that is solar- or wind-only. Thus, diversifying your energy portfolio solves a lot of the intermittency problems.
Second, we need to be able to transport power. While the sun may not be shining or the wind blowing where you are, the sun is always shining and the wind is always blowing somewhere. By enhancing our electrical grids, power can be shifted regionally from where it’s generated to where it’s needed, further reducing the impact of intermittency of solar and wind power.
Third, intermittency becomes an even smaller problem if part of the energy mix is dispatchable climate-safe energy. This means power sources that are available at any time and can be dispatched at the request of electric grid operators, including always-on energy sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, nuclear, or natural gas with carbon capture.
Fourth, we need demand response. At times when supply simply cannot keep up with demand, we need to be able to reduce demand. This can be as simple as asking large industrial consumers to reduce their consumption. Or utilities can change consumption patterns by making power cheaper when it’s abundant and more expensive at times when it’s not. Smart appliances in homes can automatically delay running the dishwasher or drying clothes for a few hours until the utility signals that the supply of power is tight; in return for this, consumers get a break on their electricity bill.
The upshot of this is that we can largely run our economy on renewable energy. There are some edge cases where decarbonization might be hard (e.g., international airline flights), but this should not stop us from gathering the low-hanging fruit.
This leads me to the other piece of misinformation you’ll often hear: A renewable energy grid will be expensive.
There was a time when that was the case, but today the picture is quite different. Wind and solar are now as cheap as the cheapest fossil fuel power, if not cheaper. And these price comparisons typically do not include the costs of climate change, air pollution, and price variability from fossil fuels. Those costs represent an enormous subsidy for fossil fuels and, if you include them, fossil fuels become far more expensive than renewable energy.
In response to this, the market is decisively moving away from fossil fuels. In Texas, for example, 95 percent of the energy connections to the electrical grid planned for the next four years are for renewable energy (60 percent solar, 16 percent wind, 18 percent battery).
It’s great news that our electricity system is already switching over to renewable energy. But it’s not happening fast enough. On our present trajectory, we will continue to use fossil fuels well into this century, leading to warming of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100, well above the target that the world has agreed upon, 1.5-2 degrees Celsius. Given that our present warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius is already causing severe and expensive impacts, 3 degrees Celsius would be a planetary disaster.
The transition has been sluggish because the price of fossil fuels is kept artificially low. Consumers and businesses do not pay the full cost of the climate, health, and other related costs of fossil fuel use. This could be largely solved by making consumers pay the full cost of their energy through a carbon tax or cap and trade system. If society had to pay the full costs of energy, fossil fuels would quickly disappear from the energy market.
The climate problem is therefore quite simple: Fossil fuels are terrible for humanity, and we can switch at relatively low cost to an economy largely powered by renewable energy. So why aren’t we doing that?
The blame, in my view, lies with economists. Not all economists, mind you, but a group of influential thinkers in the mid-20th century who pushed governments towards implementing an extreme view of free markets. They also said that the social responsibility of corporations was to make as much money as possible. One of the most influential of these thinkers, Milton Friedman, called this the Friedman Doctrine. It was immortalized by Oliver Stone in the movie Wall Street, when one of the main characters proudly declares, “Greed is good!”
Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, the United States saw government oversight shrink while corporations became laser-focused on profits. This deregulation effort delivered benefits like cheaper airline tickets for consumers. But the lack of government oversight combined with the imperative to make profits as large as possible also resulted in some terrible outcomes. These include climate change and the skyrocketing price of lifesaving drugs like insulin.
The fundamental problem is that free markets can’t solve environmental problems. Most environmental problems are externalities, or costs imposed on people who are not part of the transaction. Climate change is a classic externality—if you consume a gallon of gas or a kilowatt of electricity, the resulting carbon dioxide causes climate change everywhere, thereby imposing costs on everyone in the world. The costs of this climate change are not paid by the consumer, so this is a hidden subsidy of fossil fuels.
To corporations, externalities are terrific! If the goal of a corporation is to make as much money as possible, then it wants to push as many of the costs onto society as possible, which increases corporate profit. Because externalities benefit corporations, solving problems that arise from them, like climate change, requires government regulation. If the government is unwilling to regulate in some fashion, then climate change will never be fixed.
Fossil fuel corporations have also tried to stifle regulation by spending millions of dollars over the last few decades casting doubt on the science of climate change, despite their own researchers accurately assessing the risk. This closely paralleled what tobacco corporations did decades earlier. This shows the true problem with our version of free-market, profit-maximizing economics: Today’s economy does not create wealth that makes everyone better off, but rather generates enormous benefits for corporations while generating few benefits or even net harms for everyone else.
In the end, climate change is not a scientific or technical problem. The scientific community understands how fossil fuels cause climate change, and technology to solve the problem exists. Rather, climate change is a political problem. We need to return to the 1970s, a time when Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly passed legislation forming the EPA. We need to understand that a world in which corporations care only about maximizing profits demands that the government protect the interest of the people.
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