DEMOCRATIZING ENERGY: The Key to Aceh’s Energy Independence

Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) and the Aceh Environmental Forum (WALHI) held a Focus Group Discussion on “Energy Transition and the Fate of Aceh’s Forests” at Moorden Cafe Beurawe, Aceh, on Thursday, January 25th, 2024.

Deforestation of natural forests in Indonesia continues to occur and has not been fully stopped despite various conservation efforts. Areas that have been designated as strategic projects for development continue to experience a significant decrease in forest cover. Mitigation of emission reductions from the FoLU and energy sectors is suspected to be a way to destroy Indonesian forests, planned or unplanned.

In the FoLU Net Sink 2030 document, more than 10 million hectares of natural forests are in a state of planned deforestation and unplanned deforestation which, based on the division of authority, need to be mitigated. Unfortunately, this division of roles and authorities cannot be easily understood and comprehended as a form of protection policy by local governments.

The Aceh government, among others, is regulated by Law No. 11 of 2006 concerning Aceh Governance regarding the authority of the Aceh government and districts/cities to carry out certain special government functions. Aceh has a special autonomy policy that can be used as an effort to mitigate damage to natural resources to meet the national emission reduction target from the forestry and energy sectors.

FWI’s Manager of Campaign, Policy Intervention, and Media, Anggi Putra Prayoga, said that Aceh is targeted to carry out forest protection mitigation with a total of around 120 thousand Ha which is divided into 84,160 thousand Ha of planned deforestation and 37,281 thousand Ha of unplanned deforestation. Where the role of the Aceh Government must be able to hold back the rate of deforestation by 90 percent.

On the other hand, the national energy mandate mixture as an effort to reduce emissions in the energy sector and the electricity sub-sector has significant consequences for forest and land management in Aceh. The national energy mixture target of 23 percent in 2025 must also be lowered to the Aceh Government’s target. Unfortunately, the Aceh General Energy Plan document according to Qanun Number 4 of 2019 has not yet reflected the uniqueness and specificity of Aceh’s energy independence, concluded Anggi.

Inconsistency of Emission Reduction and Bioenergy in Aceh

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) is targeting the development of energy plantation forests covering an area of 1.3 million hectares throughout Indonesia to supply the need for wood biomass as a substitute for coal energy (bioenergy). PT Aceh Nusa Indrapuri (ANI) was granted a concession by KLHK to build energy plantation forests in Aceh Besar and Pidie Districts with an area of 97,806 Ha.

Executive Director of WALHI Aceh Achmad Sholihin said that the development of energy plantation forests (HTE) to produce wood biomass by HTE concessions, which is then burned together with coal in Coal-Fired Power Plants (PLTU), is a false solution. Companies are not taking responsibility for carrying out their functional duties. They carry out the deforestation but not the replanting. The damaged forests are essential ecosystem areas in Aceh and are community-managed areas. Aceh is not in transition because its forests are being destroyed.

Mulyadi from the Medaya Association explained that energy transition while still utilizing coal energy in combustion in PLTUs is a way to destroy the Aceh environment. The problem is that the coal tycoons who already control land and coal concessions do not want to lose out on the pressure of energy transition. The lack of opportunity for the public to carry out checks and balances on the implementation of the energy transition encourages many violations and environmental damage in Aceh.

Inclusivity of Energy Transition in the Perspective of the Aceh Government

Energy transition can have a significant impact on vulnerable groups. Energy transition and energy democratization in Aceh completely leave out the participation of the people of Aceh in determining the most suitable type of energy for Aceh’s energy independence.

Rahmi from the Aceh Women’s Solidarity explained that women are the most disadvantaged party in the context of energy transition because of their roles which are often linked to sectors that are vulnerable to environmental and social changes.

The role of women in key sectors makes them vulnerable to economic and environmental changes that may occur during the energy transition. For example, the use of coal and mining can cause environmental damage, pollution, and loss of agricultural resources, which in turn can directly affect the lives of women. Therefore, it is important to involve and consider the impact of energy transition on women so that the resulting policies are more inclusive and sustainable.

Nasir from WALHI Aceh explained that Aceh must be energy independent because Aceh has Aceh politics for the Acehnese people to create independent energy. The development of the Tambur Hydroelectric Power Plant (PLTA Tambur) reflects on the lack of opportunity for the people of Aceh to determine the correct and safe energy for the sake of sustaining the lives of the Aceh people. The location of PLTA Tambur is built in the area of river headwaters, which even has been determined as a disaster-prone location due to its potential to submerge villages. Energy transition remains in the hands of only a selected few individuals.

Further steps are needed to improve energy democracy, such as increasing community participation in decision-making processes. As well as creating an environment of openness that supports inclusive and open dialogue. By actively engaging the people, a more democratic energy transition policy can be developed, which aligns more with the needs and aspirations of the people of Aceh, concluded Nasir.

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Forest Watch Indonesia Media (+62857-2034-6154)

The Energy and Forest Transition in Aceh document can be downloaded below:

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