Fueling populous Java: What are the options?

By Hanan Nugroho


Java, 128,000 square kilometers (including Madura), makes up only 7 percent of Indonesia’s land mass, but it is the place where some 140 million Indonesians live, making it the most populous island in the world. Having 44 volcanoes, Java’s soil has long been recognized as fertile with agricultural crops growing easily.

As the most industrialized region, possessing Indonesia’s best living facilities, Java has long attracted Indonesians from other islands, making it a “melting pot” for the country’s hundreds of ethnic groups.

However, due to excessive exploitation, Java’s carrying capacity is decreasing fast. The world’s most densely populated island is currently facing many shortages; of food, energy and water.

Even though it is a fertile island, Java is no longer self-sufficient in food. Java’s narrow land has been converted excessively to non-agricultural uses.

The island is still the place over which the country’s widest paddy fields are stretched; however, it has to import rice — the island main staple — and many other food stuffs.

Java’s water potential is below that required to support a healthy life for all of its population.

Water crises are approaching on the island fast, especially in its large cities where poor quality and water insufficiency are already a day-to-day problem.

Compared to its large and growing energy demand, Java actually has only a few indigenous energy reserves. Java is more similar to societies like Korea, Taiwan and Honshu (Japan) that lack energy resources, rather than to other islands in Indonesia (particularly Sumatra and Kalimantan) that have considerable amounts of energy supplies.

Java’s energy consumption per capita is far greater than that of any other island in Indonesia. The populous island consumes about three-fourths of Indonesia’s energy and about 80 percent of the country’s electricity.

Oil was exploited in Java for the first time in 1893. The oldest field, Cepu, Central Java has declined to almost no production, although there is growing hope of other prospects in the same region. Other small oil fields are scattered off-shore north of Java, where natural-gas fields are also found.

As the oil and gas exploited in Java are far from sufficient to meet demand, the island has to import them. The reserves are also too few to meet the island’s future demand for oil and gas.

Crude is imported to feed Java’s oil refineries (Cilacap, Balongan, Cepu: Total capacity about 750 thousand barrels/day), while imports of oil products (gasoline, diesel) are also required to meet the island’s demand for oil products, for the fast growing transportation sector in particular.

Java started importing natural gas from Sumatra through a pipeline only in recent years, with an expected gas flow of 1,100 mmscfd (million standard cubic feet daily). Earlier this year, Java began importing natural gas from Kalimantan, sent as LNG. The imports are so far prioritized to fuel electricity generation near the capital city Jakarta.

Java is already an island with a large energy deficit. But in the future, given its limited indigenous reserves, Java will need increasing imports of oil and gas.

With its population which is still growing, getting richer, and eager to develop larger economic activities, what will this mean for the future of Java’s energy supply and demand management? Can Java afford to meet its energy demand continuously?

From the supply side, there are several energy-supply options the densely populated island might consider.

Java cannot avoid large imports of coal; this is simply because generating electricity from coal is cheap and coal is available more abundantly than gas and oil in Indonesia. The General Plan for Electricity Provision (RUPTL) has plans to surround Java with coal-fired power plants (CFPP). However, as coal is dirty and bulky, Java should permit only the cleaner and more efficient coal technologies on the island.

Due to the large use of CFPP, and the need to enforce high environmental standards, it would be better if Java started planning the application of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which — in addition to its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — might also produce energy in the future.

In the future, Java should also import coal in its cleaner forms, for example as gasified coal or liquefied coal.

The geothermal potential in Java is situated ideally close to energy demand centers, especially in the island’s western region. The populous island has to exploit its geothermal potential further by removing obstacles to its development. However, even if all of Java’s geothermal potential (close to 200 MW) was exploited it would still be not enough to meet Java’s electricity demand.

Java might still take advantage of its hydro-energy potential to produce electricity, for instance by applying pumped storage technologies. It is very urgent however that Java enforces strict forest management when securing the water available to spin its hydroelectric turbines.

Lying close to the equator, Java might start harnessing solar power potential, for example by requiring that middle-class homes and government buildings install solar equipment to provide electricity for their own needs.

Most of the energy supply-side approaches above are capital intensive ones, whereas not all of the technologies have been proven. Demand-side energy management might offer costless options, and are probably more appropriate for Java.

The potential for applying energy conservation in Java is quite large in the transportation sector, industry, building and even households. So far we have not exploited this “other source of energy” (energy conservation) adequately.

Not only must energy be used efficiently, but since demand for energy is actually a “derived demand”, the government should prohibit excessive development of economic activities requiring heavy energy consumption. For example, by not issuing more licenses for “energy hungry” industrial estate development in the already densely-
crowded island of Java.


The writer is energy policy analyst with the National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS). The opinions expressed are personal.

Source: theJakartapost