Biomass co-firing in coal-fired power plants: PLN's ambition to drive green energy

This article has been translated by PwC Indonesia as part of our Indonesia Infrastructure News Service. PwC Indonesia has not checked the accuracy of, and accepts no responsibility for the content.

Bisnis Indonesia - Cofiring Biomassa Pada PLTU: Ambisi PLN Pacu Energi Hijau

10 May 2021


PT PLN (Persero) has an ambition to continue developing clean energy resources to achieve 23% new renewable energy mix in 2025. One of their solutions is to substitute coal with biomass.

Based on the company’s plan to develop new renewable energy, there are at least three strategies to increase the capacity of the green power plants.

The first strategy is to implement the co-firing program in coal-fired power plants (PLTUs) by substituting 10% of coal with biomass.

The second strategy to convert 5,200 diesel-powered power plants (PLTDs) in 2,130 locations with a capacity of up to 2 gigawatts (GW) to be new renewable energy power plants.

The third strategy is to utilise several existing assets, such as dams, to provide mini-hydro power plants (PLTMs). In this matter, PLN will cooperate with the Public Works and Public Housing Ministry.

Regarding biomass co-firing, PLN President Director, Zulkifli Zaini, said that the program had been implemented from 2018. PLN has implemented the program in eight PLTUs and 29 PLTUs and is currently in the trial run process.

He is targeting 52 PLTUs implementing the co-firing program by 2025. Moreover, the electricity capacity produced is planned to reach 10.6 GW with 9 million tonnes of biomass per year.

“The cofiring program is a land-based program,” Zulkifli said at the end of last week.

He believes that the program will run smoothly as Indonesia has an abundant source of biomass from waste or industrial plantations.

PLN Megaproject Director, M. Ikhsan Asaad, added that the budget required to implement the co-firing program was not too expensive.

“The capex required to turn waste to pellets is not much. It is far more efficient than building waste-to-energy power plants,” he said.

Previously, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) reckoned that the implementation of the biomass co-firing program in PLTUs would require incentives from the government.

IEEFA Energy Economics and Policy Specialist, Putra Adhiguna, said that there were still many challenges that must be answered to implement the co-firing program, such as the economic feasibility and the supply stability.

The plan will require the procurement of a humongous biomass industry to supply stable fuel of around 4 million tonnes to up to 8 million tonnes every year.

“Our capacity in the form of palm kernel shells is almost 1.7 million tonnes, and almost all of it is exported as Japan and Korea wants to buy them for double than the price coal,” he said.

IEEFA is suggesting the co-firing program to be implemented gradually on a regional scale rather than simultaneously on a national scale.

According to him, the implementation of the co-firing program must be tested so that it can be proven that the biomass supply chain can develop excellently and applied in other regions.

Hold up fossil fuel

Meanwhile, PLN stated that the company would focus on building more new renewable power plants after the 35,000 megawatt (MW) program was finished.

Zulkifli Zini said that, until the end of 2019, 95% of the 35,000 MW project has been finished. PLN is currently waiting for the construction of the 35,000 MW project and the 7,000 MW project from the first phase of the fast track program.

In the 35,000 MW project, Zulkifli said that the portion of new renewable energy power plants was only 2,000 MW, while the remaining 33,000 MW are fossil fuel power plants.

“We will see the COD of these projects that will provide around 12,000 MW in the next five years. After it has been finished, future electricity procurement will only focus on new renewable energy,” he said.

With electricity consumption growing 4.7% yearly, PLN forecasts that the national electricity consumption can reach 1,800-terawatt hour (TWh) in 2060. Zulkifli said that PLN’s electricity sales are around 250 to 300 TWh.

“This means that, from this year to 2060, Indonesia requires 1,500 TWh of electricity that must be provided from new renewable energy. So, the potential of new renewable energy is extraordinary, from 300 TWh per year to 1,800 TWh in 2060 or 1,100 TWh in 2050,” he said.

Meanwhile, he admitted that new renewable energy realisation had yet to reach expectation. However, he continued that PLN was committed to support the realisation of the 23% new renewable energy mix target in 2025 and net zero emission in 2050.

Besides new renewable energy power plants, PLN will also boost the use of electric vehicles and electric stoves to achieve the targets.

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