Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, is looking at various sources of new and alternative energy, including discarded shells of the reddish-brown palm fruit, to achieve a target of sourcing 23 percent of its electricity generation from renewable energy.
To raise the nation’s renewable energy utilization from the current 13%, the Indonesian government has opened opportunities for independent power producers (IPPs) to develop renewable energy projects, especially bioenergy power plants. According to data from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Indonesia’s total installed capacity of bioenergy power plants was 1,858.5 Megawatts (MW) as of January 2019. (Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, 2019).
Palm kernel shells, a waste product from palm oil production, are the ideal feedstock for a biomass power plant because of their uniform size, ease of handling, ease in crushing, and low moisture content. Palm kernel shells, palm fiber and empty fruit bunches can all be burned to heat high-pressure steam, which drives turbine generators to produce electricity.
West Kalimantan Province has 1.4 million hectares of palm plantations, and is Indonesia’s fourth-largest producer of palm oil. To make use of the plant-based waste from processing palm oil, private firm PT Rezeki Perkasa Sejahtera Lestari (RPSL) invested in Siantan Biomass Power Plant (PLTBm Siantan), the first biomass power plant in the province. RPSL is 80%-owned by Jakarta-listed infrastructure firm PT Nusantara Infrastructure Tbk (META) through its subsidiary Energy Infrastructure.
PLTBm Siantan started commercial operation in April 2018, about one and a half years after signing a power purchase agreement (PPA) with PLN in September 2016. The power plant, which has the capacity to generate 15 MW of electricity and operates at a capacity factor above 85 percent, drives the local economy by purchasing feedstock from nearby palm oil plantations.
In March 2019, PLTBm Siantan, which is about one-hour drive from the province’s capital Pontianak, hosted 36 participants for a workshop that PLN and USAID ICED II held. This workshop aimed to improve PLN staff capacity to review feasibility studies, especially for bioenergy projects from IPPs. Through the workshop, the participants had the chance to learn how a biomass power plant operates, from receiving and burning of the feedstock to electricity production.