Forestry activists: Energy transition may be used to control land and forests

Jakarta – Forestry activists expressed their concerns about land and forest tenure practices behind the energy plantation forest (HTE) development scheme that will trigger deforestation and social exclusivity.

“The current issue of energy transition is only being used as an excuse to perpetuate forest and land acquisition amid the inability of companies to cultivate energy plantation forests,” said Anggi Putra Prayoga, Campaign and Policy Intervention Manager of Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI), in a discussion entitled ‘Energy Transition Concept as a Deforestation Threat in West Nusa Tenggara Province’.

The government is targeting the development of six million hectares of energy plantation forests (HTE) to use woody biomass, which is claimed to be renewable energy, to transition energy.

To achieve the 23 per cent mix target by 2025, the MoEF has issued Minister of Environment and Forestry Regulation No. 62/2019 on the Development of Industrial Forest Plantations to provide forest and land needs from state forest areas. This is to supply the final energy needs of coal substitutes that will be implemented in 52 PLTUs in Indonesia to be burned in the form of wood biomass produced from HTE.

Prayoga said that PT Sadana Arifnusa, one of the forest plantation companies in West Nusa Tenggara Province, has allocated 2,767 hectares to be planted with energy crops with acacia, eucalyptus and gmelina. However, Tirta from the West Nusa Tenggara Agrarian Reform Movement Alliance (AGRA NTB) found no energy crops planted by the company in PT Sadana Arifnusa’s concession.

“The natural resource conflict between PT Sadana Arifnusa and community groups in Sambelie is a portrait that the community does not fully recognise the company’s existence,” he said.

There are also concerns that social forestry governance will shift to energy plantations that are not in line with community preferences. Suyono from Transform explained that the preference for social forestry in West Nusa Tenggara is corn and not for plantation forests to meet the needs of pulp or wood biomass.

FWI projects that natural forest deforestation from energy transition projects could reach 4.65 million hectares (national aggregate). This value is calculated from the remaining natural forests within forest concessions, forest plantations, and social forestry concessions that have high accessibility to 52 co-firing power plants in Indonesia.

The co-firing policy is burning woody biomass as a substitute for coal (within a certain amount of 5-10 per cent). Through current policies, such as multi-business forestry concessions, forest plantations, and social forestry concessions, it is possible to transform licenses to energy forest plantations. (Hartatik)

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