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The Learning Activation Approach—Understanding Indonesia’s Energy Transition by Teaching It

Managing Global Governance (MGG) Programme, Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik/German Development Institute, 53113 Bonn, Germany
Regional Development Information Section, Ministry of Home Affairs, Jakarta 10110, Indonesia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Energies 2021, 14(17), 5224;
Received: 3 June 2021 / Revised: 22 July 2021 / Accepted: 4 August 2021 / Published: 24 August 2021


Indonesia is an interesting case study for researchers, educators and students of sustainable development and sustainable energy due to its ability to connect the multiple “worlds” it has become part of. Indonesia is an important bridge to Muslim countries, the voice of the Global South in the G20 and a main pillar of the 134-country-strong G77. Indonesia’s development trajectory is also key to the achievement of the Paris Climate Agreement as well as of the 2030 Agenda. This article proposes that one way to understand Indonesia’s complex energy transition is by knowing how to teach it as a case study. By teaching how Indonesia addresses contradictions that would have been unsurmountable for other countries, new insights and values can be gained. Indonesia’s energy transition offers helpful lessons, because of its aspiration to become a developed country by 2045. However, as the methodology of this paper suggests, these lessons can be more valuable when they are achieved through the stages of reflection, interaction and action. By knowing how to teach Indonesia’s energy transition, the value of knowledge can be multiplied. This article begins by showing how Indonesia addresses barriers and caveats by focusing on silver linings and comes up with pragmatic solutions to energy-related issues. This is followed by the “teaching guide,” which provides recommendations as to how the lessons from Indonesia can be embedded into a learning experience. The “learning activation approach” is introduced, which encourages students to systematically reflect on the complexity of selected contexts and understand this complexity by looking at the technical issues and processes that allow decision making.

1. Introduction

Indonesia is an interesting case study of the transition towards sustainable energy, because it is a highly relatable country. Indonesia is striking, in particular for scholars of energy policies, climate or environmental politics and development studies, because it is positioned between multiple “worlds”. As a founding member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Indonesia is seen as a champion of moderate Islam (umma wasat) and a global leader with a pragmatic foreign policy. It is also perceived to be an important bridge to Muslim countries [1]. In addition, as one of the newest members of the G20, Indonesia is increasingly becoming the voice of developing countries on the international stage [2]. Indonesia’s value as a global leader can be traced, for example, through its role in the 1955 Bandung Conference and the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)—a forum of 120 developing countries [3]. Resulting from the NAM is the Group of 77 (G77), a coalition of 134 developing countries at the United Nations and an effective negotiation vehicle by which developing countries can advance their interests in various areas such as international trade and climate change [4,5,6]. In addition, Indonesia’s pivotal leadership, based on “restraint”, allows it to push for regional integration and cooperation in Southeast Asia (ASEAN) and in the Asia-Pacific region (APEC) [7].
Indonesia’s development trajectory is also key to the achievement of the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement as well as of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. If problems of a global dimension, such as climate change, are to be effectively addressed, Indonesia needs to make a contribution [2]. The 313% increase in total CO2 emissions (2018, base year 1990) from Indonesia is significantly driven by its 793% increase in electricity final consumption (2018, from 1990) [8,9]. With more than 270.2 million inhabitants, Indonesia has the largest population in Southeast Asia, and the fourth-largest population in the world, after China, India and the USA. Its population is projected to increase to around 318.9 million by 2045 [10]. Because its target to become a developed country by 2045 will most likely lead to an increase in energy demand, Indonesia will need to find additional solutions to make this development goal consistent with its climate protection and sustainability policies [11,12]. For example, expanding access to electricity of 1.7% of its population, and to the 32% of its population who have neither access to electricity nor clean cooking technologies, could undermine the country’s emission reduction targets unless there are credible improvements in energy efficiency and urban planning [9].
Indonesia confirmed its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 29% from business-as-usual (BAU) with its own capacity, or by 41% with international support, by 2030. To achieve this, Indonesia seeks to reduce GHG emissions from its energy sector by 314–398 million tons of CO2 by 2030 through the deployment of renewable energy (RE), enhancement of energy efficiency, advancement of energy conservation and the utilisation of clean energy technologies [13]. Mandatory energy efficiency policies were also introduced that affected around 18% of Indonesia’s total energy use. The International Energy Agency (IEA) [9] notes that these policies prevented 8% of additional energy use in 2018 (with 2010 as base year). After Indonesia’s ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2016 and the drafting of the Climate Change Law in March 2017, the Indonesian government fast-tracked the development of relevant policies. Five months after the ratification, President Joko Widodo issued Presidential Regulation Number 22 of 2017 on the National Energy Master Plan, which formalised the targeted share of new and renewable energy (NRE) in the energy mix from 7.6% of total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2016 to 23% of TPES in 2025 and 31% of TPES in 2050. New and renewable energy (NRE) sources is a distinct energy group categorised by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of Indonesia. Based on Law No. 30/2007 (issued on 10 August 2007 titled “Energy”), “new energy” is defined as energy generated by both renewable and non-renewable sources that include nuclear, hydrogen, coalbed methane, liquefied coal and gasified coal. The same law defines “renewable energy” as including solar, geothermal, wind power, hydropower and ocean energy (thermal gradient, wave power and tidal power).

Methodology and Research Problem—Understanding through Teaching

This article argues that Indonesia is, as a case study, highly valuable for research on sustainable development (in general) and on sustainable energy (in particular). Due to its ability to connect the multiple “worlds”, Indonesia’s experiences offer valuable lessons for a broader number of countries, which can relate to the local conditions as well current and potential challenges Indonesia needs to address. In addition, Indonesia’s energy transition offers helpful lessons to other countries, particularly because of its aspiration to become a developed country by 2045. It is interesting to understand better how, for example, Indonesia managed to focus on silver linings and come up with pragmatic solutions to energy-related issues that could be highly contentious. One main research problem addressed by this paper is how such case studies can be used as a departing point for deeper understanding of the complexity of energy transition. By embedding the Indonesian case study into a teaching object, several added values can be achieved both for the educator/researcher and the students/professionals.
The content and the approach of this article is an outcome of The Clean Energy Living Laboratories (CELLS): The Development of Centers of Excellence on Energy Access (EE), Renewable Energy (RE), and Energy Efficiency (EE) project, which was funded by European Commission through its Instrument for Development Cooperation (DCI) Europeaid/152092/DD/ACT/PH. One type of the deliverables of the project refers to the three international and three local case studies that are complemented by a teaching guide. This teaching guide provides a roadmap and an approach as to how each case study can be taught to the students. At the same time, teaching these studies aims at deepening the knowledge of the faculty members who are simultaneously researchers involved in the above-mentioned center of excellence. The students are already professionals from various fields that are taking the “Energy Transition” track of a Master’s Program in Public Administration. They are already experts in their own fields. Therefore, the teaching approach benefits from their expertise, which further deepens the knowledge on the relevant energy issues.
In general, the default or target students of this case study are M.A. students who are already professionals. They tend to be familiar or even experts on certain aspects that can be related to the energy system, such as public procurement, finances, advocacy, entrepreneurship and public policy. These students take several courses on energy and their level of knowledge on the technical aspects of the energy transition is between intermediate and advanced. The faculty member using the case study can decide which technical difficulty level and aspects of the teaching guide should be implemented. While this article assumes this ideal to be “default,” faculty members/researchers can adjust or modify this teaching guide for it to be “realistic.”
The logic of the project represents the same logic of the article: by developing and implementing pedagogical tools to effectively teach energy transitions, a deeper understanding of the complexity of multilevel transitions can be achieved not only by the educator/researcher but as well as by the students/professionals. Knowing how to explain, for example, the reasons behind Indonesia’s choice to stick to coal energy in front of students, university faculty members (who are also researchers) are able to reflect and understand more this specific choice and its meaning to the overall energy transition trajectory. Students/professionals are also able to contribute their own perspectives, leading to several feedback loops. As Aloysius Wei Lun Koh and colleagues [14] argue, teaching improves understanding because it compels not only by retrieving available information, but also by encouraging the evaluation of this information that is used as a resource to develop lessons and execute concrete actions.
Indonesia’s energy transition is presented through the “teaching guide,” which provides recommendations how the lessons from Indonesia’s experiences on energy transition can be derived. It is important to highlight that Indonesia’s energy transition is not regarded by this paper as a role model for other countries, but rather as a pool of experiences through which lessons can be derived. The next step is for the educators and the students to reflect on the applicability of these lessons to their countries or to discuss what it takes to implement these lessons to their home countries. For example, the teaching guide asks questions about the probable reasons for the lack of political will to shift from coal energy towards renewables. The class can discuss the reasons behind this and evaluate potential tools or approaches to induce the envisaged political will, which can also be applicable to their home countries. The “learning activation approach” is introduced to systematically reflect on the complexity of selected contexts such as Indonesia’s energy transition and understand this complexity by looking both at the technical issues and at the processes that allow decision-making.

2. Teaching Guide—Understanding through Teaching of the Sustainable Energy Transition in Indonesia

This case study on Indonesia’s efforts to achieve sustainable energy delivers the necessary components for learning about a highly complex subject. It has been designed to match the needs both of the educators and of the learners. The case study offers real situations and challenges. In addition, it presents key issues for a debate in order to motivate exchanges of perspectives. Furthermore, this case study on Indonesia’s energy transition has been presented in a way that offers potential lessons for other countries. As mentioned in the introduction, Indonesia is an interesting case study because its experiences can be replicated not only in developing countries, but also in some developed countries that are, for example, struggling to phase out coal energy from their energy supply mix.
For many developing countries, especially from Southeast Asia and the Muslim world, Indonesia is seen as a “link” between their desire to maintain traditions and their identity while at the same time embracing modernity [1,15,16]. As one of the largest economies in the world, and as the biggest sources of GHG emissions growth, Indonesia’s decisions are substantial. Indonesia can also offer important insights to many east European countries, such as Poland and Czech Republic, that are struggling to find the political mandate to present coal energy as an integral part of their energy transition policy [17,18]. Therefore, using Indonesia as a case study allows a broader understanding of the various entry points to addressing the complexities of a transition towards sustainable energy. This part represents a teaching or learning guide that provides a lesson plan on how to maximise the learning process through the case study of Indonesia’s energy transition. The next section discusses how this case study can help to achieve most teaching objectives of classes on sustainability. In the next sections, the “learning activation approach” will be introduced.

2.1. Guidelines for Using the Case Study

Unlocking the value of case studies requires a framework for analysis. Educators and students can benefit from a learning framework that can help (1) transform situations into experience, (2) develop analytical tools from this experience and (3) apply these tools to other situations. This section introduces the pedagogical value of the Indonesian case study.

2.1.1. Teaching Objectives and Target Audience—Building Future Change Makers

This case study can help fulfil the teaching and learning objectives of future leaders who see the current momentum on sustainability not as a threat but as an opportunity to achieve human well-being. These future leaders may come from both the public and private sectors. They are most likely to come from different academic and professional backgrounds. They might represent both the anticipated winners and losers of the pursued transformation process. While some might push forward ambitious efforts, others might opt for a “sober” change to make sure that the proposed solutions are implemented well so that they do not create new injustices. They could drive both individual and institutional change towards sustainability. This diversity of the target audience should not impede the teaching and learning of transitions towards sustainability. Diversity is even imperative in learning. The complexity of the issues involved is caused by diversity in issues and actors. Addressing diversity when learning about these issues can help enhance the listening capacity, communication and empathy of students.
The case study on Indonesia’s energy transition supports the teaching objectives of any course that aims to link transformative knowledge on sustainability with professional skills needed to understand the complexity of any transition towards sustainability. This case study provides useful impulses to enhance the assessment or judgment skills of the students. These assessment skills are needed by policymakers to weigh different interests, perspectives, and value systems. They need the ability to solve problems and to formulate priorities, not only using their “moral compass” but also evidence and reason. These skills need to go beyond merely understanding the technical complexity of issues but also require the development of empathy, which allows students to understand, for example, the social equity implications of an action. Moreover, this case study can help cultivate the “political nous” of students, or their ability to read power contexts and structures. It also includes the courage of conviction to make both popular and unpopular decisions to solve short- and long-term problems.
Evidence-based policymaking is an integral characteristic of effective policymaking that indicates the ability of policymakers to make their ideological or political worldviews compatible with scientific reasoning. In addition, this case study can help improve the leadership skills of students by highlighting their sense of accountability. Although Indonesia’s public sector is the main driver of its energy transition, its success is dependent on the ability of the public sector to forge genuine partnerships, not only with the business and industry sector, but also with civil society groups. Indonesia’s diversity is for “bad leaders” a hindrance, but for “good leaders” it is an opportunity. For this reason, this case study provides insights on how public deliberation is key to any energy transition. The most effective solutions are not the technically optimal ones but the negotiated ones—the outcome of tedious and inclusive bargaining between multiple actors who share the same sense of reality. Therefore, negotiation skills or the ability to persuade can also be enhanced through this case study.
These tasks require that students be not only knowledgeable about the technical, social, political, economic, and ecological aspects of the energy transition, but that they are able to debate in a healthy and constructive manner. This also implies the need for the students to have a transdisciplinary professional background. In addition, it is expected that while some students are well-informed, for example on the economic aspects of the energy transition, others might provide important insights from the governance side. Students are expected to be passionate about certain topics, without them undermining the passion of the others.
The case study can also provide opportunities for educators to enhance their own skills. By highlighting the diversity of the issues and of the students, the educators need to have appropriate moderation skills to ensure that not only the “loudest” and extroverted can share their views, but also introverted students who often find it difficult to overcome their fear of speaking in front of many people. In addition, the educators are recommended to apply the “Socratic” method to encourage critical debate in the class [19]. This method is a form of cooperative argumentative dialogue between students in which educators ask provocative questions or theses to stimulate critical thinking. In the next sections, examples of these provocative questions will be presented. Educators can formulate these questions in a holistic manner by connecting key issues of energy transition to other issues addressed in earlier or future lectures. Finally, the educators can individually decide how much time and effort they would need to spend on this case study. For example, some educators might decide to focus on the applicability of Indonesia’s efforts to their home countries. Other classes might highlight the material resources required to achieve an energy transition. Others might focus on the deliberation or negotiation processes needed to initiate and implement a transition process towards sustainability energy.

2.1.2. Teaching Approach and Strategy—Linking Reflection with Actions

To achieve the above-mentioned teaching objectives, the so-called “learning activation approach” is introduced in this teaching and learning guide, which provides an orientation on how educators can facilitate the learning process. This approach is supported by the notion that students can learn from the Indonesian case study when they are not only conveying but also creating knowledge. The approach starts with students reflecting on the Indonesian case study. They are encouraged to raise questions while thinking deeply about the key issues presented and questioning the underlying assumptions. The following figure depicts how a given context can be studied. As Appendix Table A3 illustrates, the different contexts pertain to the interlinked dimensions or subsystems, each of which has different sets of key issues, actors or agents, structures, processes and outcomes. As illustrated by Figure 1, the three parts of the learning activation approach: reflection, interactions, and actions reflect the teaching objectives discussed in the previous sections that encourage students to actually create knowledge.
The reflection part provides the space for students to make their own deductions when exploring innovative and out-of-the-box ways of addressing the challenges presented as barriers to transition. As will be discussed in the next section, the key issues related to the Indonesian energy transition should be presented to the students in such a way that their critical thinking is highlighted. The case snags are part of the reflection stage, during which educators and students identify open questions that require further research and debate. In studying cases of energy transitions, these case snags often focus on trade-offs and co-benefits, as well as negative and positive externalities. The identification of these case snags is highly dependent on whether those with different perspectives can adequately exchange ideas.
The interaction part of the learning approach focuses on the processes of bargaining or joint decision-making between stakeholders. By understanding the motivations and preferences of actors as well as of their advantage, as defined by the resources available to them, students will be able to develop strategies to facilitate interactions between them. As the discipline of negotiation studies demonstrates, a deeper understanding of the structures and processes of collective decision-making and cooperation can reduce transaction costs, and more attention can be given to the actual issues involved [20,21,22].
Finally, the action part of the learning activation approach refers to the analysis of (1) actions made, and (2) the possible alternative actions to achieve the same policy goal. The case study enumerates the resources utilised to achieve a policy measure or action. With the guidance of the educators, the students are encouraged to come up with the Best Alternative to the Chosen Action (BACA). BACA refers to a possible alternative measure that might lead to the same policy results but with fewer costs. The best alternative to chosen action (BACA) is similar to the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) that is used in negotiation studies (see Fisher and Ury, 1991).

2.2. Case Analysis—Learning from Indonesia’s Energy Transition

AppendicesTable A1, Table A2 and Table A3 summarise selected background information and contexts relevant to learning from Indonesia’s energy transition and enumerates key areas educators could highlight in the class.

2.2.1. Geophysical and Ecological Context

The geophysical and ecological context of Indonesia’s energy transition can be broken down into a number of key areas, two of which might be:
The role of coal energy in Indonesia’s energy transition and climate change mitigation policy [23,24].
The limitations or challenges to Indonesia’s energy system resulting from the country being an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands that spans a distance of about 5000 km—equivalent to one-eighth of the Earth’s circumference [25].

Coal Energy as an Indispensable Part of Indonesia’s Energy Mix

Indonesia is considered to have the biggest coal reserves in the world [24,26]. In addition, coal energy is often perceived as Indonesia’s way out from its dependence on oil. Therefore, coal energy is more likely to play a significant and long-term role in Indonesia’s energy system. At the same time, the continued reliance on coal as a primary component of Indonesia’s national energy mix over the coming decades undermines the credibility of Indonesia’s climate change mitigation commitments [23,27]. Indonesia might become one of the world’s “climate pariahs” particularly in that China has committed to a net-zero emissions goals by 2050, which is more ambitious than Indonesia’s goal of seeing emissions peak in 2030 before declining to net-zero by 2070 [28,29]. Climate pariahs, which include Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Australia, are usually barred from speaking at the UN’s Climate Ambition Summit. Because Indonesia is not expected to sacrifice its economic development for climate protection, the energy transition pathway Indonesia is taking might lead to diplomatic isolation. This might undermine Indonesia’s presidency of the G20, which aims to formulate strategies for a more resilient, productive, sustainable, and competitive global economy [30]. This can also affect Indonesia’s access to Official Development Assistance (ODA), as many donors have already begun aligning their ODA and bilateral development cooperation priorities with climate mitigation. For example, around 53% of Japan’s bilateral allocable ODA was marked as climate-related. Other major donors, such as Germany France, UK and Sweden, have significantly “climate mainstreamed” their ODA, with France even making 100% of its whole ODA portfolio compatible with the Paris Climate Agreement [31]. Other arguments against Indonesia’s coal strategy include the negative effects of coal energy to the deployment of renewable energy, because it reinforces existing carbon lock-in [32,33]. Moreover, some experts argue that there is evidence that the current competitive advantages of coal energy are numbered, because of the emerging global efforts to reinforce carbon pricing, which in the long-term impede Indonesia’s global competitiveness [34,35]. However, there are also other experts who argue that new clean technologies are emerging that can reduce emissions from coal energy and that carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are already available [36].

The Energy–Human Development Nexus in an Archipelagic State—The Decentralisation of Indonesia’s Energy System

As an archipelago, Indonesia has a serious challenge in distributing electricity to its citizens, especially to those who live on smaller islands. While the Indonesian government is committed to electrifying the whole country by 2020, there are still more than 1 million households without access to electricity, particularly in rural and remote areas [37]. At the present time, only urban areas have adequate power distribution. Those outside these urban areas are more likely to be confronted by the “poverty–energy trap”, because the lack of access to power means that they are more likely to remain in poverty [38]. Around 50 million Indonesians who live in 40,000 villages on 4000 islands remain without access to reliable power [38]. In addition, these areas are highly dependent on kerosene lamps or expensive diesel-generators for lighting, which leads to energy bills 10 to 20 times higher than those for people living in big cities. People living in these areas are also more likely to have a lower income, and the lack of reliable energy limits economic growth [25]. The lack of energy also undermines the quality of education of children, especially in the information technology era. In a 2019 survey conducted by the World Bank [39], only 29% of the 270 rural and remote primary schools surveyed between 2016 and 2017 were connected to the power grid, and only 17% had internet access. These connectivity challenges, in addition to the huge salary gap, discourage qualified teachers from working in these areas. Around 34% of teachers and 18% of school principals were shown in the survey only to have high school degrees. In addition, 25% of classrooms did not have a teacher at all. Therefore, the electrification of rural areas needs to be a key target of Indonesia’s energy transition. To achieve this goal, Indonesia needs to accelerate NRE power plant development in remote areas [40]. Large-scale centralised power generation may not be suitable for the needs of rural areas. Instead, small-scale off-grid renewable generation systems can help electrify these areas cost-effectively [37]. The decentralisation of Indonesia’s energy system will, however, need further structural changes [26,41].
The educators can choose one of the areas and discuss it using the learning activation approach (see Figure 2). For each of the key areas, the next step is to introduce the case snags into the discussion. For example, there could be a debate about the role of the first area of interest, coal energy, which could address the following:
What international assistance is available to reduce emissions from Indonesia’s energy sector?
Does coal energy enjoy public support?
Is an increasing dependence on coal preventing the deployment of renewable energy in Indonesia?
Can technological innovation, for example in CCS, resolve the negative effects of coal energy on Indonesia’s climate change mitigation?
How can Indonesia decouple its GHG emissions from its energy demand?
Are the negative effects or trade-offs of coal energy (e.g., health, air pollution) shouldered by those earning from it?
The possible next step is to instruct students to prepare a stakeholder map of Indonesia’s sector. Which public and private sector actors are benefiting from the current integration of coal energy in Indonesia’s energy mix? Which among these actors are more likely to oppose any attempts to phase out coal energy? Which frameworks or platforms are used to hold a dialogue between groups? Is there an emerging leader? How are non-state actors engaged in the dialogue? How many Indonesians are directly and indirectly employed in the coal energy sector? The educators can connect the discussion to previous lectures and classes or academic literature on policy entrepreneurship, or to how these actors are able to influence policymaking [42,43].
The action part of the learning activation approach can be implemented by the educators by highlighting the role of coal energy in ensuring energy security in Indonesia. For the BACA, students can discuss whether there are possible scenarios for Indonesia’s energy system to relinquish coal energy for the sake of climate protection. Here some sample questions to think about:
Should domestic tax be introduced to help build up the needed infrastructures for renewable energy?
Is there political will and capability within the Indonesian government to relinquish coal energy?
How can the knowledge and understanding of policymakers at the national and local levels be increased to empower them to develop a policy and regulatory framework that supports renewable energy development and sustainability?
Is climate protection a viable argument to risk the reliability and affordability of energy in Indonesia? If not, can Indonesia realistically achieve its NDC with coal being as a mainstay energy?
Which additional efforts can be done to offset emissions from coal energy? Will Indonesia prefer emission trading schemes rather than actually reducing emissions?
Can improvements in energy efficiency be enough if emission trading schemes become too expensive?

2.2.2. The Economic Development Context

Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the seventh-largest global economy in terms of purchasing power [15]. Due to the size of its economy and it currently being a major source of world’s GHG emission growth, Indonesia is a formidable partner in mitigating climate change by reducing emissions from its energy system. Indonesia’s emissions growth of 8% between 2018 and 2019 is so far the largest growth of fossil CO2 emissions, even faster than that of China (3.4%), the United States (−2.6%) and India (1.6%) [44]. Indonesia’s average CO2 emission growth since 2015 of 6.2% is also the largest among all countries (China: 2%, US: −0.7%, India: 3.2%) [44]. The country’s economic growth of approximately 5% has been traditionally driven by commodity and agricultural production [15].
The economic development of Indonesia is an important context of its energy transition. The key areas in this context are most likely related to economic growth. Examples of these include:
The economic costs of energy transition [45]
Efforts to decouple economic growth from energy demand [46]
Sustaining economic growth in an archipelagic state [25] and in a state with abundant fossil energy resources.

The High Monetary Costs of Indonesia’s Energy Transition

An important determinant of the success of Indonesia’s energy transition is the estimated costs and benefits of its implementation. Appendix Table A2 summarises the estimated cost (in Indonesian Rupiah) of achieving the targets stipulated by the above-mentioned policies. For example, the cost of electric NRE producing 48.9 GW is estimated at IDR 1688 trillion. Almost similar is the estimated cost of IDR 1619 trillion for clean energy technologies, for example to reduce GHG emissions from coal energy. In addition, Appendix Table A2 enumerates the mitigation benefits of achieving these targets. The Indonesian government has established a subsidy scheme to alleviate the financial and social burden of the energy transition, particularly for private households. The government set a feed-in tariff for electricity generation from geothermal energy, hydropower, bioenergy and solar energy sources based on their production costs not only in order to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies, but also to ensure price certainty [40]. The government has channeled most subsidies to those regions in Indonesia that are confronted with high costs for grid infrastructure development, which inhibits the expansion of electrification in remote areas. Obliged by Law 30/2009 that was implemented by the Jokowi administration, the government is subsidising electricity supplies to poor and remote areas in the country [45]. In 2016, the government spent IDR 48.33 trillion for electricity subsidy [47]. However, there is a discussion whether the energy transition can advance if the government continues its huge subsidy programme for fossil fuels, which was IDR 27,050 billion in 2016.
The main questions for reflection the educators and students are recommended to discuss are:
How will the current economic growth (in light of the COVID-19 pandemic) affect the implementation of the energy transition?
How will the energy transition in its current trajectory most likely affect Indonesia’s future economic growth?
When addressing these questions, the educators and students can recapitulate from previous lectures and classes on how economic growth is highly sensitive to projected energy demand. The educators can present Indonesia’s declining economic growth in the last five years (5.6% in 2013, 5.04% in 2014, and 4.88% in 2015) and the students can reflect on the reasons for this decline. Was it related to the weakness of Indonesia’s energy system? Are volatile world oil prices negatively affecting Indonesia’s investment environment? Is there a direct correlation between world energy prices and Indonesia’s economic outputs?
Indonesia’s economic growth increased in 2016, 2017 and 2018 by 5.03%, 5.07% and 5.17%, respectively. Are the reforms in Indonesia’s energy system, implemented during this period, directly or partly responsible for this growth? From 2019 to 2020, with the slowing global economy, uncertainty in global financial markets, and a decline in the volume of world trade (particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic), Indonesia’s annual economic growth rate went from 5.02% in 2019 to −3.48% in 2020 [10]. Educators and students can discuss how this decrease is likely to undermine the implementation of the RUEN. Indonesia set a target for energy supply of 169 MTOE in 2016, growing to 400 MTOE in 2025, and reaching 1012 MTOE in 2045. The RUEN assumed that economic growth would be stable.
The economic growth assumption is also reflected in the “2045 Indonesian Vision”, published by the National Planning Board [12]. Indonesia’s economic growth in subsequent years will be supported by increasing domestic demand, including consumption and investment as well as better export growth in the manufacturing sector, which is the country’s main energy consumer.
The case snags in this context can evolve around the following questions:
The 2045 Indonesian Vision and Indonesia’s energy transition assume an economic growth driven by increasing domestic demand, including consumption and investment. Does economic growth need to be predominantly driven by consumption? There is a debate (e.g., about degrowth) that sustainable development and some principles of consumption are not compatible, because consumed resources are not only scarce but involve exploitation of natural resources [48].
The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the “resource curse” in Indonesia [49,50]. Under what conditions can economic growth be sustainable in Indonesia? Which policy reforms are needed to address this paradox in Indonesia?
The discussion on these case snags can be extended, and include examples from the students’ home countries. Are their countries also confronted with the resource curse? Are efforts being made to find a new paradigm of economic growth that is not solely based on consumption, but on created value?
The next step for discussion refers to how stakeholders to economic growth interact with each other. Educators and students should identify which actors are benefiting from the current economic growth paradigm. Are there actors, particularly from the academic community and civil society, who demand a new debate on sustainable economic growth and how it is affected by, or is affecting, Indonesia’s energy transition? Which actors have assumed leadership in furthering a dialogue on economic growth? How is the energy sector participating in this debate? Are there impulses from the energy sector on improving efficiency in the energy demand sector? Are these impulses scalable to other levels? What platforms are available to exchange insights about economic growth and about efficiency in energy demand? Is media (and social media) covering related debates?
The action part of the learning activation approach will most likely refer to policy instruments that aim to increase domestic demand, including consumption and investment. The educators and students should identify some of the relevant policies that aim to improve export in the manufacturing sector, which is Indonesia’s main energy consumer. After identifying these policies, students should evaluate the implementation of these policies. They can come up with a list of the resources needed to implement them as well as resources that are needed to address negative effects of these policies. For example, improving manufactured exports can be achieved by lowering taxes or by eliminating market barriers that were placed to protect Indonesian players. Can these new policies expose Indonesian manufacturers to more competition? Students might also come up with alternative policies, for example by maintaining protectionist policies or by building up domestic consumption of the yields of the country’s manufacturing sector. This could mean introducing new policies that aim to increase the purchasing power of Indonesian households.

2.2.3. The Governance Context

The governance of any transformation process towards sustainability requires a broader understanding of governance [51,52] and that of Indonesia’s energy sector is highly complex. In the case study, the following governance-related key areas were introduced, which can be further elaborated by the educators:
The political mandate of energy transition [13].
Public finance of sustainable energy transition [53,54].
The role of state-owned enterprises (SEO) throughout the entire energy value chain in Indonesia [15].
With the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement, Indonesia has committed to reducing GHG emissions unconditionally by 29% against a business-as-usual scenario and, with international assistance, by up to 41% against the 2030 business-as-usual scenario [13]. As one of the most natural disaster-prone countries in the world, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to climate change. For example, Indonesia faces high mortality risks from multiple hazards, including tsunamis, floods, landslides and droughts, with about 40% of its population exposed to such hazards [55,56]. By 2100, climate change impacts are expected to cost Indonesia between 2.5% and 7% of its GDP [56]. At the same time, Indonesia is the 10th largest GHG emitting country (532 tonnes in 2018) and the 19th highest in terms of CO2 emissions per capita (1.7 metric tons CO2 equi., 2018) [9]. Recognising the need to make its climate protection goals coherent with its economic goals, the government of Indonesia has developed and implemented various plans since 2014 to improve its ability to harness sufficient sustainable and reliable energy sources and reduce emissions.
Indonesia’s energy transition is a top-down process, which was officially launched in 2017 when the Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS) integrated climate action into the country’s development agenda through its Low-Carbon Development Plan (Pembangunan Rendah Karbon Indonesia) [57]. The following figure illustrates the political mandate, goals, targets and strategies that encompass Indonesia’s overarching energy transition plan.
The political mandate of Indonesia’s energy transition reflects the vision the government has set to achieve national energy sovereignty, resilience and independence. This vision necessitates a combination of policies to unleash the potential of Indonesia’s new and renewable energy (NRE) sources, which the government estimates to be 441.7 GW, of which only 9.07 GW (about 2%) has been utilised effectively. Through the Government Regulation of the Republic of Indonesia Number 79 of 2014 on National Energy Policy (KEN), the government has determined the role of NRE to reach at least 23% in the national energy mix by 2025. Indirectly, the policy for implementing the role of NRE has actually been politically strengthened in Law Number 30 of 2007 on Energy. In addition, the President has issued Presidential Decree Number 22 of 2017 on the National Energy Master Plan or Rencana Umum Energi Nasional (RUEN). RUEN pertains to the national-level energy management plan that elaborates and implements the KEN. RUEN is also a guideline to realise energy independence and national energy security in supporting national sustainable development. Furthermore, RUEN is a reference point for the Regional Energy Master Plan (RUED). RUEN is elaborated and implemented by the provincial government for the preparation of the RUED to achieve RUEN targets.

Public Finance and the Resource Curse

One of the main barriers to Indonesia’s energy transition is a paradox. While the abundance of both fossil and non-fossil energy sources in Indonesia supports the implementation of its energy policies, Indonesia is also confronted by the shadow of these resources—the so-called “resource curse”. The resource curse is a major barrier to long-term investment due to the volatility of world prices for the resources Indonesia is exporting [49,50]. Public investment is key to Indonesia’s energy transition, because it sends the signals needed by the private sector for their long-term planning. While there is a positive correlation between the share of oil and coal mining, and of gas extraction, with district real per capita income [58], Indonesia’s dependence on revenue from exports of its fossil energy sources makes its public finance more vulnerable to external shocks [59]. Ahmad Komarulzaman and Armida Alisjabana [60] observed that there is a persistent negative effect of the mining sector on regional economic growth. However, they also observed that when resource revenues are invested properly in the public sector, the implications of the resource curse are minimised.

The Role of State-Owned Enterprises (SEO) throughout the Entire Energy Value Chain in Indonesia

Indonesia’s state-owned enterprises in the energy sector exert an important influence on the country’s GHG emissions-reduction goals. More than 100 SOEs (Badan Usaha Milik Negara (BUMN)), are the main providers of goods and services that are not or cannot be covered by the private sector. In 2019, Indonesia had 114 state-owned enterprises and this number increases to 772 when all subsidiaries are counted [61]. At a global level, in 2019 SOEs owned 55% of electricity networks and 50% of the world’s fossil fuel production assets [62], and in many countries they are prevalent in the electricity sector, where long-term investment determines future GHG emissions [63]. Indonesia’s “carbon entanglement” is linked to the SOEs’ entanglement with fossil fuels, which are placed under severe financial strain when faced with stringent climate policy [63,64]. In addition, because SEOs have wielded massive influence in nearly all of Indonesia’s main industries, they are able to maintain inefficient practices, which have led to many of them being in a dire financial state, undermining their ability to implement emission reduction targets. For example, the SOE minister Erick Thohir criticised in December 2018 the fact that only 15 of the SOEs produced 76% of the total profits from SOEs. In addition, according to the Bank of Indonesia, the total SOE debt in March 2020 was USD 55.4 billion [65].
Another challenge is that SOEs are vulnerable to cronyism and conflict of interests, because top SOE positions are traditionally occupied by political allies who do not always have the necessary expertise to effectively run these companies and who are still maintaining their positions in the private sector [65]. Indonesia’s state-owned power company, the Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN), reported a USD 2.8 billion drop in profit in the first quarter of 2020 (96.5% fall in the first half of 2020) [66]. While this loss was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, PLN is regularly dependent on government aid, because operating expenses (paid in US dollars) frequently exceed revenues (collected in Rupiah) [15]. Because PLN has a monopoly on the transmission and distribution of electricity in Indonesia, the government has no other option than to support the PLN. This represents a key challenge to Indonesia’s energy transition—to find a balance between access to cheap electricity and the competitiveness of PLN. While PLN is a provider of a public good such as providing low or no-cost electricity for 31 million of its most vulnerable customers during the pandemic, it is argued that this monopoly is inhibiting the decentralisation of Indonesia’s energy supply and the deployment of NRE [15,67].
Educators and students can start the reflection by evaluating the current state of Indonesia’s public finance. How much uncertainty is there surrounding public finance? How is Indonesia capable of financing its energy transition? What are the main barriers for the Indonesian government to ensure public investment in the energy sector?
One of the main barriers that will be most likely be identified is Indonesia’s dependence on exporting resources. The resource curse is a major barrier to long-term investment due to the volatility of world prices for the resources Indonesia is exporting [49,50]. The educators can, for example, connect this discussion with earlier lectures or comparisons with other energy-exporting countries such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. The recognition of the resource curse as a major barrier to energy transition due to the uncertainties in public financing allows the identification of policies that can mitigate the effects of the resource curse. These policies include the diversification of the economy and efficient monitoring of commodity prices. Additional policies can be developed to address the emerging income inequality in Indonesia resulting from increasing trade surpluses.
If the educator were elaborate on the main areas of public finance, the educators and the students could start the discussion by reflecting on the general role of public finance. A debate on a “small government” can warm up the students. What level of state subsidies should the Indonesian government provide for its energy transition? What are the main barriers for the Indonesian government to ensure public investment in the energy sector? The following list of case snags can initiate further discussions:
Should taxpayers shoulder the debt of Indonesia’s state-owned electricity company, PLN with its current short- and long-term debt of an estimated IDR 694.79 trillion?
Are state subsidies to energy companies reinforcing incompetent management?
Is the liberalisation or privatisation of the PLN the effective way to enhance its competitiveness? Should the energy sector remain under state control?
The discussion on these case snags can be also extended to include examples from the students’ home countries. Are there good models of privatised energy sectors in their home countries? What are the common challenges these countries need to resolve?
The next step is to map out the interactions between actors and the processes or structures used to address challenges in public finance. For example, the political framework of Indonesia’s energy transition, as stipulated by KEN, RUEN and RUED facilitates the coordination efforts between government agencies such as the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) (as the principal agency for the energy transition), Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The established National Energy Council brings together seven ministries and energy sector stakeholders to deal with crisis conditions and energy emergencies. The students can learn more about this council and discuss how they cooperate with each other. Which among these council members can be regarded as change agents and which are status quo agents? Are there spoilers? Do they have the necessary resources? Is the MEMR a credible leader?
The action part of the learning activation approach can be executed by looking at current efforts to improve public financing of the energy sector in Indonesia through public–private partnerships (PPTs). Following the Asian financial crisis in the early and mid-2000s, Indonesia implemented a legal and institutional framework that serves as the basis for more private participation in infrastructure construction, finance and management [68]. The educators can discuss the limitations of PPT in sectors that are highly dependent on state subsidies in order to maintain affordability. They could formulate strategies on how this challenge be resolved. For example, they can question how affordability is measured and which threshold is acceptable to the public. They can also discuss whether state-owned enterprises (SOE) such as the PLN can and should act as a private rather than a public partner. Finally, the students can be invited to come up with the BACA or possible alternatives to PPT. If students prefer to stick with PPT, they could focus on how the current PPT framework in Indonesia can be improved. For example, community-based PPTs (CBP3S) have been introduced in many energy management projects in other countries [69]. Students can also extend the discussion to the PPT efforts in their home countries.
Educators are recommended to close the teaching of the case study by referring to additional reading and references. Indonesia’s case study can be connected or compared to other country case studies. The comparison of Indonesia with other countries that are experiencing similar challenges has empirical value. For example, comparing Indonesia’s liberalisation of its energy sector to that of the Philippines can lead to valuable insights both for Indonesia and the Philippines.
This case study also presented case snags that can help identify concrete examples that could be the subject of further studies or discussions, such as efforts to decouple emissions from energy demand or from economic growth, which can shed more light on emerging debates on degrowth or on sufficiency. The case study also revealed the need for students to widen their perspectives on various issues. It is recommended that educators conclude by facilitating a feedback round in which students (preferably in smaller groups) answer the following questions:
What was my connection to the energy issue before and did I discover new connections through the Indonesian case study?
Have I learned something new through the Indonesian case study that changed my view or position on one issue?
Did the Indonesian case study lead me to understand better the challenges confronting my home country?
Did I discover something from the Indonesian case study that can be applied to my home country?
Are there other areas of interest in each context that are also important and that should be further discussed?
Have I come up with a BACA that I never thought of before and of which I am now a “fan”?
How I learned something important by listening to the views or perspectives of my classmates?

3. Conclusions—Understanding through Teaching

Indonesia’s energy transition makes a valuable teaching example. Indonesia’s energy transition is complex due to local realities. Energy is a sensitive issue for most developing countries. Indonesia is no different. Energy is subjected to political, societal, and ecological considerations such that addressing it requires a holistic and transdisciplinary approach. Because it touches different justice and equity issues, energy policies need to be outcomes of public debate and consultation. Above all, in order to implement energy transition, the government of Indonesia must take into account the realities of increasing energy demand and the availability of both fossil and non-fossil energy sources.
The learning activation approach introduced by this paper can maximise not only the students’ learning experience but also the deeper understanding of various related issues. By reflecting, interacting, and acting, the students become part of the energy transition and the educators are trained to structure the complexity as they explain issues to the students. As the students project the challenges and solutions to their own situations or of their home countries, some might even become stakeholders.

Author Contributions

Conceptualisation, A.M.H.; methodology, A.M.H.; resources, A.M.H., Y.T.B.P.; writing—original draft preparation, A.M.H., Y.T.B.P.; writing—review and editing A.M.H., Y.T.B.P.; visualisation, A.M.H., Y.T.B.P.; project administration, A.M.H.; funding acquisition, A.M.H. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


The Managing Global Governance (MGG) Programme funds the open access publica-tion of this article. The MGG programme is implemented by the German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) in Bonn and funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). It is also a deliverable to The Clean Energy Living Laboratories (CELLS): The Development of Centers of Excellence on Energy Access (EE), Renewable Energy (RE), and Energy Efficiency (EE) project and was funded by European Com-mission through its Instrument for Development Cooperation (DCI) Eu-ropeaid/152092/DD/ACT/PH.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.


Many thanks to Mary Ann Franco, Sam Timbreza, Thea Mae Baltazar, Cristina Morales-Alikpala, Bettina Beer, and Conny Hornschild for their valuable support.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to publish the results.

Appendix A

Table A1. Characteristics of the Indonesian Energy System (data sources: DEN [26,70], IEA [8,9,71], IRENA [72], MEMR [73]).
Table A1. Characteristics of the Indonesian Energy System (data sources: DEN [26,70], IEA [8,9,71], IRENA [72], MEMR [73]).
Population [70]270.2 million (2019)
Size [73]1,916,906.77 km2
Gross National Income (GNI), atlas method (current USD)USD 4050 (2019)
GNI per capita [73]IDR 59,054,440 (2019)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)USD 1.2 trillion (2019)
Unemployment rate [73]5.6% (2019)
Total primary energy production (2019) [70]411.6 MTOE (2018) (64% of which exported)
Total final energy consumption (without biomass) [70]114 MTOE (2018)
Energy intensity per capita [71]29.82 (MMBtu/person) (2018)
Primary energy supply [70,73]1,559,295 thousand BOE (2019)
NRE (share in primary energy supply mix) [73]9.18% (2019)
Oil (share in primary energy supply mix) [73]35.03% (2019)
Coal (share in primary energy supply mix) [73]37.28% (2019)
Gas (share in primary energy supply mix) [73]18.51% (2019)
Total renewables installed capacity (both on-grid and off-grid) 10.17 GW [37]
Hydropower: 5.4 GW
Geothermal: 2.13 GW
Bioenergy: 1.9 GW
Mini/micro hydro: 464.7 MW
Wind: 148.5 MW
Solar PV: 152.4 MW
Waste power plant: 15.7 MW
Final energy consumption [73]1007.26 million BOE (2019)
Primary energy supply per capita [73]5.92 BOE/capita (2019)
Primary energy consumption per capita [73]3.53 BOE/capita (2019)
Provision of power plants [70]66.8 GW (2018)
Electricity production in TWh [74]295 TWh (2019)
Electrification ratio [70]98.81% (2018)
Per-capita electricity utilisation [70]1077 KWh (2018)
Reduction of final energy intensity [70]1% annually (2019)
Ratio of household gas consumption [70]85% (2015)
Self-sufficiency level (% of TPES) [74]195% (2018, since 2018 increasing)
No. of people directly employed in the RE sector [72]519,200 (incl. 494,400 in liquid biofuels and 17,800 in hydropower) (2020)
Share of nuclear energy in %None
CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) [73]1.7 tonnes CO2 equi., per capita (2018)
GHG emission level (metric tons) [73]532 tonnes (2018)—an increase of 313% on 1990 levels
Share of global carbon emissions [9]1.68% (2018)
Table A2. Costs and benefits of Indonesia’s energy transition [75].
Table A2. Costs and benefits of Indonesia’s energy transition [75].
Production ActivitySaving ActivityMitigation
(Million Tonne CO2)
Estimated Cost
(IDR Trillion)
Electric NRE48.9 GW 156.61688.0
Non-electric NREBiodiesel: 9.2 million KL
Biogas: 19.4 million m3
13.8 84.0
Energy conservation 117 TWh96.392.3
Clean technology102 GW 31.81619.0
Oil and gasLPG and kerosene conversion: 5.6 million ton
Gas station: 143.75 MMSCFD
Gas networks: 2.4 million SR
Reclamation145,200 Ha 5.54.0
Table A3. Selected contexts of the Indonesian energy transition—Learning Activation Approach.
Table A3. Selected contexts of the Indonesian energy transition—Learning Activation Approach.
Key Areas Case SnagsStakeholdersStructures and ProcessesNeeded ResourcesBest Alternative to Chosen Action
Geophysical and ecological contextcoal energy
archipelagic statehood vulnerability to climate change
international assistance on mitigation
public acceptance of coal
deployment of RE
poverty-energy and education-energy nexus
technological innovation
policy entrepreneurs
role of non-state actors
urban vs. rural
policy cycle
clearing houses for islands
coordination with other archipelago/island nations
technological innovation in CCS
policies to ensure reliability and affordability of energy
energy subsidies
emission trading
carbon pricing
energy efficiency improvement
Economic development contextpost-pandemic economic growth
bioenergy as driver of economic growth
decoupling emissions from economic growth
sustaining economic growth in an archipelagic state
new paradigms of economic growth
post-COVID-19 recovery
resource curse
public and private sectors
exporting sectors (e.g., manufacturing)
public sector
non-state actors
subnational actors (cities and regions)
national development planningpolicy instruments that aim to ease trade relationsimproving purchasing power of domestic households
Governance contextpublic finance
decentralisation of the energy sector
liberalisation or privatisation of energy sector
state subsidies to SOEs such as PLN
government agencies
state-owned enterprises
stakeholders to the energy sector
National Energy Council
framework established by RENRUEN and RUED
public–private partnerships
modernisation of infrastructure
community-based PPT
roll-back of liberalisation
decentralisation of the energy sector


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Figure 1. The Learning Activation Framework (own representation, CC BY 4.0).
Figure 1. The Learning Activation Framework (own representation, CC BY 4.0).
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Figure 2. Indonesia’s Energy Transition in a Nutshell (own representation).
Figure 2. Indonesia’s Energy Transition in a Nutshell (own representation).
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Hernandez, A.M.; Prakoso, Y.T.B. The Learning Activation Approach—Understanding Indonesia’s Energy Transition by Teaching It. Energies 2021, 14, 5224.

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Hernandez AM, Prakoso YTB. The Learning Activation Approach—Understanding Indonesia’s Energy Transition by Teaching It. Energies. 2021; 14(17):5224.

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Hernandez, Ariel Macaspac, and Yudhi Timor Bimo Prakoso. 2021. "The Learning Activation Approach—Understanding Indonesia’s Energy Transition by Teaching It" Energies 14, no. 17: 5224.

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