WTE in the Middle of the Renewable Energy Vortex

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Recently, discussions related to the construction of the Waste-to-Energy Power Plants (WTE) are often discussed following President Joko Widodo’s direction to continue accelerating the construction of the power plant. Basically, the construction of WTE is carried out as one of the programs to meet the strategy of implementing technology in handling household waste and household-like waste that is environmentally-friendly and efficient.[1] In general, this action is carried out as a form of performance improvement for waste handling.[2] In its development, in fact the construction of WTE is not only carried out for handling waste, but also to meet the sources of electricity in Indonesia, especially in terms of increasing the role of renewable energy, juxtaposed with other renewable energy sources in Indonesia such as water, wind, and solar.


WTE is a Renewable Energy Source?

In Indonesia, Waste-to-Energy Power Plants (WTE) is categorised as renewable energy. Historically, the existence of the definition of WTE as a renewable energy source in Indonesia is by the issuance of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 18 of 2016 concerning the Acceleration of Waste-to-Energy Power Plants Development in Province of DKI Jakarta, City of Tangerang, City of Bandung, City of Semarang, City of Surakarta, City of Surabaya and City of Makassar which in the “considering” section of the regulation explained that WTE in Indonesia needs to be built in order to convert waste as an energy source and improve environmental quality, as well as to enhance the role of electricity based on new renewable energy. Even in the WTE definition in the regulation has also been explained in article 1 number 3 related regulations, namely:


“Waste-to-Energy Power Plants, hereinafter abbreviated as WTE, is a power plant that uses new and renewable energy based on municipal solid waste that is converted into electricity through thermal process technology including gasification, incinerator, and pyrolysis”


Although in Presidential Decree No. 35 of 2018 concerning the Acceleration of the Construction of Waste Processing Installations into Electric Energy Based on Environment-Friendly Technology (regulation replacing PD No. 18 of 2016) the definition related to WTE as new and renewable energy is already gone, but in its implementation WTE is still categorised as renewable energy, especially when referring to regulations within the scope of Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. The example of the regulation is Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Regulation No. 53 of 2018 related to the Utilisation of Renewable Energy for Electricity Supply, which categorizes WTE as a renewable energy source. Currently WTE is defined as “Waste Management into environmentally-friendly technology-based electricity that meets quality standards in accordance with statutory provisions and can reduce the volume of waste significantly and is tested”.[3] Unfortunately, the understanding of environmentally-friendly technology is still ambiguous.

Specifically, Indonesian laws and regulations define renewable energy sources as energy sources that are produced from sustainable energy sources if managed properly, including geothermal, wind, bioenergy, sunlight, flow and waterfall, as well as movement and temperature differences ocean lining.[4] In its implementation, the assumption of municipal solid waste as a renewable energy source is due to the fact that it is included in the bioenergy category. The Directorate General of New, Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation in the article on its official page further redefines that not all types of waste are included in the bioenergy category, but only those that are sourced from organic waste.[5]


WTE: Between environmental problems and the acceleration of renewable energy development


The categorisation of WTE as a renewable energy source is often debated. Especially because the use of fuel or thermal technology is often a problem because it contains problems from environmental and economic aspects, and is also related to human health. Basically the use of incinerators removes emissions in the form of dioxins or compounds that are persistent, bioaccumulative and carcinogenic in nature.[6] In addition, incinerators also produce fine particles and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium, copper and zinc. All of these can have a negative impact on the environment and human health. Various diseases that can arise due to exposure to these pollutant sources include cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, to decreased lung function, cancer, heart attacks, and premature death.


Unfortunately, on the other hand the establishment of WTE as a renewable energy makes WTE development prioritised and given various facilities equated with the development of other renewable energy sources. Surely this is done to pursue the target of 23% renewable energy in Indonesia’s national energy mix by 2025. This is as stated in PP No. 79 of 2014 concerning the National Energy Policy which states that the priority of developing national energy is based on the principle of maximising the use of renewable energy by taking into account the economic level.[7] Apart of that, facilities that can be obtained in the development of WTE as a new and renewable energy source include the provision of fiscal incentives, ease of licensing and non-licensing, the establishment of the purchase price of electricity from each type of new and renewable energy sources, the establishment of separate business entities in the framework of electricity supply, to the provision of subsidies.[8] In the land supply stage, the WTE development can also be categorised as a strategic project, the provisions of which land acquisition is carried out based on the provisions in land acquisition for public use using minimum time.


In connection with the purchase price of electricity, the current purchase price of electricity by PT. PLN (Persero) for WTE is determined based on capacity. For quantities up to 20 MW, the purchase price is valued at USD 13.35 cent/kWh which is interconnected by high voltage, medium voltage or low voltage networks. As for capacities that are more than 20 MW that are interconnected in high voltage networks or medium voltage networks, the purchase price is calculated by calculation: 14.54 – (0.076 x PLTSa capacity sold to PLN).




As a closing, this article underlines that the construction of WTE has broad health and environmental impacts. Categorising PLTSa as one of the renewable energy sources has various risks. In the midst of the Indonesian Government’s efforts to continue to boost the development of renewable energy, without a clear definition related to the development of WTE, the construction of WTE with waste originating from both organic and inorganic sources can be categorised as a prioritised power plant and given a variety of incentives or facilities. Whereas the development of WTE with thermal technology requires in-depth and thorough study and consideration. If in the future Indonesian regulations still consider WTE as a renewable energy source, there needs to be more stringent safeguards in environmental protection and management for WTE before finally being provided with various facilities and simplicity as in other renewable energy developments. (Grita)



[1] Presidential Decree No. 97 of 2017 concerning National Policies and Strategies for Managing Household Waste and Household-like Waste, appendix II.


[2] Ibid


[3] Presidential Decree No. 35 of 2018 concerning the Acceleration of the Construction of Waste Processing Installations into Electrical Energy Based on Environment-Friendly Technology, article 1 number 6.


[4] Law Number 30 Year 2007 concerning Energy, article 6.


[5] DG EBTKE, “Indonesia as a global bioenergy granary” http://ebtke.esdm.go.id/post/2011/01/17/70/indonesia.sebagai.lumbung.bioenergi.dunia


[6] “How do incinerators work and what are the hidden dangers of incinerators” https://www.balifokus.asia/single-post/2016/06/14/Bagaimana-cara-kerja-insinerator-dan-apa-saja-bahaya-tersembunyi-dari-insinerator


[7] Government Regulation No. 79 of 2014 concerning the National Energy Policy, article 11 paragraph (2).


[8] Presidential Decree No. 4 of 2016 concerning the Acceleration of Electricity Infrastructure Development, article 14 paragraph (2).