Indonesian coal plant taints South Korea’s green pledge

Indonesian coal plant taints South Korea’s green pledge
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Smoke and steam billows from the coal-fired power plant owned by Indonesia Power in Suralaya on July 16 Jul 2020. (Reuters)
Indonesian coal plant taints South Korea’s green pledge
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Indonesia fisherman Ramidin fishing at a port near the coal-fired power plant owned by Indonesia Power in Suralaya, Banten province, on July 11, 2020. (REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan)
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Updated 17 July 2020

Indonesian coal plant taints South Korea’s green pledge

Indonesian coal plant taints South Korea’s green pledge

SURALAYA, Indonesia:  Indonesian fisherman Ramidinsays he used to catch stingray by paddling just off the shore of his village, but as a giant coal power complex nearby has expanded over the past three decades, he has had to venture further out to sea.

Now, state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) has confirmed it will partner Indonesia to add two more 1,000 megawatt units to the complex in Suralaya, which residents fear will further increase water and air pollution.

KEPCO’s announcement late last month came despite South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s “Green New Deal” that was launched ahead of his party’s April parliamentary election victory and included loose pledges to end support for coal, at home and overseas.

The Java 9 and 10 units will be built and maintained by Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Company, which received a nearly $3 billion bailout from South Korean state banks and institu-tions this year.

Greenpeace says the $3.5 billion expansion project could result in up to 1,500 premature deaths over the typical 30-year lifespan of a coal-fired power plant, as well as affect the air in the capital Jakarta, a city of 10 million people that lies 120 km (75 miles) to the east.

Many residents in Suralaya, on the western tip of Java, Indone-sia’s most populous island, worry that the expanded coal complex will lock in decades of pollution that has plagued the once pristine village since the power complex began operating in 1984.

“It used to be able to catch fish closer to the shore but since those power plants were built, the waste may affect the fish, and they went away,” said Ramidin. “We didn’t use the motor (boat) back then. We only used the paddle to get fish.”

The Indonesian government and KEPCO say the new coal units will use the latest technology to minimize pollution. Local residents are skeptical.HIGHLIGHTS

  • Korean utility to partner in $3.5 billion Indonesia project.
  • Locals worry project will result in decades of pollution.
  • Coal venture mars President Moon’s “Green New Deal.”

Analysts question the need for more coal power generation in Indonesia given the falling cost of renewable energy, a bleak economic outlook and environmental risks. They have also questioned South Korea’s commitment to fighting climate change.

“It seems that the Korean government’s Green New Deal is just an empty promise,” said Julien Vincent, executive director of Market Forces, a climate lobby group.

KEPCO said it takes climate change seriously, and that the Indonesian project meets the environmental standards set in South Korea.

Germany’s Siemens will also supply equipment to the project, despite making vague commitments to exit coal. A spokesman said phasing out of coal investments did not include projects where it has existing obligations.