Energy sectors have been recognized as the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. The energy sector accounted for 73.2% of GHG emissions (including power, heat, and transportation). This condition significantly impacts the climate, and we need to take substantial action to address its effects on our daily life.
The just energy transition has become a hot topic discussed worldwide to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The word “renewable energy” must be considered as the solution in this transition agenda. However, how should we define this renewable energy?
In a talk on a just energy transition, I argued that the biggest challenge of renewable energy is that there is no “new clean and free energy ideology”. In my opinion, the only way to achieve Just Transitions in energy issues in developing countries is for renewable energy to be recognized as the new clean and free energy ideology.
But what does “new clean and free ideology” mean?
Allow me to explain it using a case study. In developing nations like Indonesia, where development is still needed, clean, free, or highly economical energy is required. Some researchers work on this topic to achieve an energy transition from coal in Indonesia, like a project on the energy transition of the European Commission. Indonesia is abundant with coal and recognized as one of the world’s top five largest coal-producing countries, with most power generation coming from coal. Because coal is so inexpensive, costing around IDR 600 or 4.22 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2020, coal is widely used as a source of energy in this nation. In contrast, coal is not seen as a clean energy source. Coal power generation is the second biggest GHG emitter in Indonesia after deforestation.
The other primary source of energy used in Indonesia is LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas). Although LPG is a fossil fuel, it is regarded as clean energy for homes that utilize firewood for cooking. In 2021, 11.76% of Indonesian households still used firewood for cooking; therefore, they require clean and affordable energy. In 2022, Indonesia budgeted IDR 134.78 trillion, or roughly 8.5 billion USD, on LPG subsidies to make this energy accessible and affordable. Over the years, the percentage of households using LPG has increased. By 2021, 83% of households in Indonesia used LPG with a portion of the firewood users in the previous year switched to LPG. Because it needs to be subsidized more and more as it is utilized, LPG does not have the idea of being free energy in this situation.
This ideology of clean and free energy can also change; for example, in the past, people believed that nuclear power would be a clean and free energy source, which was the energy ideology. Nuclear waste has not yet been converted into electricity, and nuclear power is not regarded as clean in this sense. So, the idea of free and clean energy has vanished.
To sum up, I believe that the clean and free ideology of renewable energy means that, once installed, the energy produced is almost free. Therefore, the user is not charged for the energy utilized; subsidies are only used for the installation. Biogas is one instance. If the government pays for biogas installation, it won’t have to pay for subsidies each time someone uses it. Free livestock excrement is widely available, particularly in rural areas.
illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.
Dr Takeshi Takama is the CEO of Sustainability and Resilience as well as an Associate at the Stockholm Environment Institute