The experts were invited by National Geographic and Shell, partners in the Great Energy Challenge, which has been sponsoring gatherings around the world to consider big energy questions. A global context for the discussion was provided by Wendy Koch, Senior Energy Editor, National Geographic. Koch explained that as the world’s population soars, Indonesia is expected to remain the world’s fourth most populous country, bringing increased demand for food and energy. Koch highlighted that Indonesia has enormous geothermal potential and has introduced a new geothermal law to spur development.
Key challenges surfaced during the roundtable discussion included the need to address gridlock wasting time and energy, and the need to electrify several thousand islands. Andriah Feby Misna, Directorate General of New Energy, Renewable and Energy Conservation, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.
Indonesia faces the unique challenge of having a projected 300 million people dispersed across thousands of islands. However, the country’s cities are poorly designed, with aging and inadequate infrastructure and major inefficiencies. One bold move is the reduction and removal of fuel subsidies in place for decades and worth 2.5 percent of GDP. Strong arguments were also made for infrastructure investment, both in energy to connect the 15 percent of Indonesians without electricity, and in transport where gridlock looms by 2020 and congestion costs billions of U.S. Increased urbanization is contributing to an annual 8-9 percent increase in energy demand, which is not being met. Solar and hydro projects are being contemplated, and Indonesia has a huge geothermal potential of which only 3 percent is currently exploited.
Nor does national energy policy promote renewables and there is a track record of poor maintenance of power projects.


Go here to watch experts from the Jakarta event discuss their perspectives on issues related to sustainable city development in Indonesia. The complete event summary publication from our Big Energy Question forum in Jakarta will be available for download soon.
Read more about energy and Indonesia through our recent Great Energy Challenge stories and blogs below.
Taking a global view but with a focus on Jakarta and Indonesia, the forum in February 2015 addressed overarching themes of energy demand and reducing carbon emissions, while considering the role of smart planning, including the transformation of infrastructure and transportation and the adoption of new systems and technologies. With around 15 percent of Indonesians having no access to the electric grid, the country is racing to boost its power production. Koch also referenced the construction of the Net Zero 99-story Pertamina Energy Tower, which opens up to the sky with a wind tunnel. However, Indonesia is still a net importer of oil, raising the question of whether falling global oil prices and reduced gasoline subsidies will provide the financial savings to enable Indonesia to invest in alternate energy sources. Among the solutions discussed were establishing trust in government and reducing subsidies for petrol and perhaps electricity as a spur to greater energy efficiency and green buildings. This complicates energy supply and infrastructure, further exacerbated by a particular vulnerability to natural disaster. There is large-scale development without regard for the environment, including extensive urban sprawl: 40 percent of Indonesians describe their city as unlivable. The low price of petrol and electricity has led to energy not being valued by consumers and so widespread waste is endemic.
The government plans to add 35GW, around 300 power plants, to the nation’s capacity, but transmission challenges across the archipelago makes localized solutions essential.


However, it was suggested that renewables could not meet Indonesia’s demand quickly enough and so fossil fuels will dominate the next 10-15 years. This is currently mostly based on coal—Indonesia is the world’s largest coal exporter—which is contributing to air pollution in Jakarta. Other ideas include increasing government funding for basic infrastructure, better city design and better land use being really the key for limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
The rapid growth of its cities, especially medium-size cities, sees projections of 75 percent of the population concentrated in urban areas by 2030.
Better city design can foster good habits, such as using public transport, but this relies on successfully implementing sustainable action, and requires greater collaboration between public and private sectors—with the latter driving development especially in creating green and smart cities. These would largely be fossil-fuel based, and may tap into Indonesia’s vast supply of coal. This could be supported by a major government initiative to improve broadband infrastructure, an essential component of the smart grid, and beyond that the smart city.
There is widespread public distrust of government and business following years of mismanagement; however, the new government is addressing this positively. There are varied suggestions of what should replace subsidies, including following the market price, limited targeted subsidies, and a fixed price system.



Emergency supplies for storm shelter
Emergency food and nutrition network

Rubric: Blacked Out Trailer



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