While hydropower is never much featured (or discussed) in Indonesian media, it is actually the biggest source of renewable energy for Indonesians. Based on data from Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the nation’s hydropower-fueled power plants had a total installed capacity of 6,688.9 megawatt (MW) at the end of 2022.
Bioenergy comes second – and by a clear distance – with installed capacity of 3,086.6 MW (see table 1).
Hydropower (also known as hydroelectric power) is one of the oldest and most used sources of renewable energy in the world. It uses the natural flow of moving water to generate electricity.
Often people associate hydropower with the Hoover Dam, a huge facility harnessing the power of an entire river behind its wall. However, hydropower facilities come in all sizes, from huge to tiny. And, they can be ‘damless’ with diversions or run-of-river facilities that channel part of a stream via a powerhouse before the water rejoins the main river. Whatever the method, hydropower is in fact much easier to obtain, and more widely used than most people realize.
Water accounts for around 16-17 percent of the world’s total electricity production, today. But while there are thousands and thousands of dams around the world, only a few produce hydroelectric energy to power homes and businesses.
Indonesia’s Challenging Net Zero Emissions Target
So, to what extent can hydropower be further developed in Indonesia to contribute its part in the country’s energy transition? The Indonesian government aims to have achieved net zero emissions by 2060. However, so far, targets haven’t been reached. For example, by the end of 2023, the government wants 17.9 percent of Indonesia’s primary energy mix to be sourced from renewable energy sources. However, at the end of 2022 renewables only supplied 12.3 percent. And so, it is very unlikely to see this target being achieved.
In early 2023 Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced that the country’s installed renewable power capacity stood at 12,557 MW (per the end of 2022), consisting of 8,680 MW in capacity that is connected to the network of fully state-owned utilities company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), and 3,877 MW of “off-grid” capacity.
With Indonesia’s total renewable power capacity at 12,557 MW at the end of 2022 while hydropower’s total installed capacity stood at 6,688.9 MW at the same time, it means hydropower supplied 53.3 percent of renewable power in Indonesia at the end of last year.
However, one year earlier, hydropower still supplied 57 percent of Indonesia’s total renewable power capacity. And so, other renewables (especially solar power, which involves the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity) see higher rates of development.
It is also interesting to take a look at the estimated maximum potential of renewable energy sources in Indonesia. In February 2023 the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry issued a press release specifying the potential capacity of the renewables. In the press release it puts the total estimated potential of renewables at 3,686 GW with hydropower supplying an estimated potential of 95 GW.
However, so far, only 7.0 percent of total estimated hydropower potential has been tapped in Indonesia, implying there remains a lot of untapped potential. In fact, Rida Mulyana, Secretary General of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, stated that Indonesia’s total power capacity is currently around 81 GW (including power supplied by the fossil fuel-fired power plants), and so –in theory– hydropower alone could supply Indonesians with all the power they need.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry divides the 95 GW of total hydropower potential in Indonesia into three broad categories (see table 4 on the next page). The source of table 4 is the Ministry’s so-called ‘ESDM One Map Indonesia’, which lists the potential of all energy sources in Indonesia. However, for reasons unknown to us, the ministry’s ESDM One Map Indonesia webpage was not able to load when we accessed it at the time of writing this article.
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