The Dilemma of Indonesia’s Energy Plantation Forest Development for Biomass Raw Materials

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The Dilemma of Indonesia’s Energy Plantation Forest Development for Biomass Raw Materials
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Indonesia is pursuing a 23% renewable energy mix, and the government has carried out biomass co-firing at PLTUs, which are expected to grow to 52 PLTUs by 2025. This practice combines biomass with coal in PLTU, such as wood pellets, palm shells, or rice husks which usually comes from waste. The issue is that waste-derived biomass frequently falls short of meeting the PLTU’s basic biomass material requirements. Wood pellet biomass is the simplest way to meet this massive demand for raw materials. Therefore this will promote the establishment of large-scale timber plantations or Energy Plantation Forests to produce raw materials for biomass such as wood pellet.

Energy plantation forests are planted and managed specifically to generate bioenergy, such as wood pellets, biofuels, and biomass for power generation. The development of energy plantation forests can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by providing a renewable energy source while also supporting rural community development and improving the country’s energy security.

However, the risk of deforestation from the development of energy plantation forest to produce wood pellet biomass cannot be avoided. Specifically, according to MapBiomas Indonesia data, 38% or 1,330,236 hectares of the total area covered by industrial plantation forest in 2019 came from natural forest clearing. Co-firing 10% of biomass in 52 power plants necessitates 10.23 million tonnes of wood pellet biomass per year. According to Mumu Muhajir, Trend Asia Researcher, to meet the demand for wood pellets of this size, at least 2.33 million hectares of Energy Plantation Forests are required, which is equivalent to 35 times the area of Jakarta Province or 3,270,000 football fields.

Therefore several concerns have been raised about the potential impact of energy plantation forests on biodiversity, land-use change, and social conflicts. Because of the country’s rich biodiversity and the prevalence of land conflicts, the dilemma is especially acute in Indonesia.

One of the main concerns is that the development of energy plantation forests may result in the conversion of natural forests and other ecosystems into monoculture plantations, resulting in biodiversity and ecosystem services loss. Indonesia has some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and converting these areas to monoculture plantations could have serious environmental consequences.

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