Health benefits of Just Energy Transition and coal phase-out in Indonesia

Indonesia relies on coal-fired power for 62.5% of its electricity generation. This reliance comes with significant impacts on the country’s air quality and public health, as well as a major contribution to the growth in greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. The coal phase-out and net-zero pathways currently being prepared are a major opportunity to clean up Indonesia’s power system.

The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) have published a study to assess the current air quality and its health impacts, and the associated external economic costs of coal power plants in Indonesia. The study also includes the impact of various policy pathways into the future and presents the first health-based phase-out pathways that are designed to maximise public health benefits of retiring coal power plants. CREA has developed a comprehensive health impact assessment (HIA) that outlines the implications of Indonesia’s decisions on coal power generation plans.

Indonesia’s current air pollutant emissions standards for coal-fired power plants are far behind best international practices and best available technology. This is clear from comparisons with e.g. China, South Korea, and the European Union.

This study models a pathway in which all power plants that are expected to operate beyond 2035 are mandated to install efficient emission control devices by 2030. In this pathway, 8,300 air pollution-related annual deaths could be avoided in 2035 in the current policies scenario (95% confidence interval: 5,200–12,600), as well as health costs of USD 5.8 billion (IDR 86.5 trillion; 95% CI: USD 3.6–8.9 billion, IDR 54.1–131.5 trillion). The cumulative avoided health costs would reach USD 90 billion (IDR 1.3 quadrillion; 95% CI: USD 60–140 billion, IDR 0.8–2.0 quadrillion), yielding a net economic benefit of USD 70 billion (IDR 290 trillion) to society, considering the investment and operating costs of the air pollution controls, making the investments highly profitable from a social point of view.

Key findings

  • Air pollutant emissions from coal power plants increased by 110% in Indonesia over the past decade. If all planned coal power plants, including captive power plants, are completed and put into operation, a further 70% increase is expected under the current policies scenario by 2030.
  • Detailed air quality and health impact modelling carried out for this report indicate that air pollutant emissions from coal-fired power plants in Indonesia in 2022 were responsible for 10,500 deaths from air pollution (95% CI: 6,500–16,400) and health costs of USD 7.4 billion (IDR 109.9 trillion; 95% CI: USD 4.6–11.5 billion, IDR 67.6–170.3 trillion).
  • Current policies would increase Indonesia’s current coal-fired capacity of 45 GW to 63 GW, before peaking in 2028. This would result in deaths linked to air pollution from coal power rising to 16,600 per year (95% CI: 10,300–25,900) and health costs to USD 11.8 billion per year (IDR 175.2 trillion; 95% CI: USD 7.2–18.2 billion, IDR 106.9–270.3 trillion).
  • Under current policies, cumulative health impacts from 2024 until the end of life of all coal power plants would result in 303,000 air-pollution-related deaths (95% CI: 189,000–468,000) and health costs of USD 210 billion (IDR 3.2 quadrillion; 95% CI: USD 130–330 billion, IDR 2.0–4.9 quadrillion).
  • A faster coal phase-out by 2040, in line with the 1.5 degrees target of the Paris Agreement, would avoid a cumulative total of 182,000 air pollution-related deaths (95% CI: 114,000–280,000) and health costs of USD 130 billion (IDR 1,900 trillion; 95% CI: USD 80–200 billion IDR 1,200–2,900 trillion), from 2024 until the end-of-life of all plants.
  • Mandatory air pollution controls installation would avoid 8,300 air pollution-related deaths in 2035 in the current policies scenario (95% confidence interval: 5,200–12,600), as well as health costs of USD 5.8 billion (IDR 86.5 trillion; 95% CI: USD 3.6–8.9 billion, IDR 54.1–131.5 trillion). 
  • Cumulative avoided health costs would reach USD 90 billion (IDR 1.3 quadrillion; 95% CI: USD 60–140 billion, IDR 0.8–2.0 quadrillion), yielding a net economic benefit of USD 70 billion (IDR 290 trillion) to the society, considering the investment and operating costs of the air pollution controls, making the investments highly profitable from a social point of view.
  • Responsible for one-fifth of all health impacts of coal-fired plants in Indonesia, it is crucial to include captive coal power plants in the Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) and Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) to make meaningful progress. Excluding them from the 2040 coal phase-out policy could cause an additional health burden of 27,000 air pollution deaths. (95% CI: 16,000–42,000) and health costs of USD 20 billion (IDR 330 trillion; 95% CI: USD 10–30 billion, IDR 200–520 trillion).
  • We also assessed the impacts of current and planned biomass co-firing on air pollution from coal power plants. Raising the share of co-firing to a minimum of 20% at all PLN (Perusahaan Listrik Negara, Indonesia’s state-owned electricity provider) power plants — a significant challenge in terms of the availability of biomass and potentially also a technical challenge — would merely reduce the emissions of air pollutants from Indonesia’s coal power plants by 1.5–2.4% depending on the pollutant. 
  • Reduction of air pollution from coal power plants can only be effectively achieved through the proper installation of emission control technology. CREA’s analysis shows that having air pollution control installed in all operating coal power plants beyond 2035 would reduce the emissions of SOx by 73%, NOx by 64%, dust by 86%, and mercury by 71%. Ammonia co-firing would worsen air quality impacts due to fugitive ammonia emissions.


Authors: Lauri Myllyvirta, CREA; Jamie Kelly, CREA; Erika Uusivuori, CREA; Katherine Hasan, CREA; Vera Tattari, CREA; Contributors: Raden Raditya Yudha Wiranegara, IESR; Deon Arinaldo, IESR

Partners: Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR)

Indonesia