And here we are, in 2021. Incidentally, the year started with two historic events: The first is the worsening COVID-19 pandemic; the second is the regime change in the United States.
After his inauguration, President Joe Biden immediately signed several documents that had been prepared for his first day in office. The first was an instrument for the US to rejoin the Paris Agreement, which will be completed in about a month.
In addition, Biden also replaced Trump-era officials in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who were all anti-environment and pro-fossil fuels.
Since COVID-19 wreaked havoc on almost all human endeavors, the new year has begun with surging growth potential for renewable energy that follows on last year’s positive surprises for the environment. This kind of growth is likely to continue throughout the year.
The European Union made a historic record in 2020, with renewable energy outperforming fossil fuel energy among its 27 member countries for the first time. Renewable energy generated 38 percent of the union’s electricity, while fossil fuels contributed 37 percent.
On the other hand, China declared its commitment to reaching carbon neutrality by 2060, putting the world’s biggest market for solar and wind power on the path to ramping up installations.
So in terms of renewable energy, there is hope that new momentum will derive from the dynamics of COVID-19. Although the pandemic seems to be worsening, pro-environmental politics is gaining traction.
There is also hope that transmission of new energy will cross national borders and that Biden’s initiative will translate to other countries, including Indonesia. When talking about the Paris Agreement, we must remember that Indonesia was an active participant when it was signed on Dec. 15, 2015.
I happened to be there to observe the Indonesian and American delegations exchange their conference documents. There were parallels between President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s speech and then-president Barack Obama’s address: The two leaders expressed the same degree of commitment to climate change mitigation.
In terms of renewable energy, Indonesia will develop new energy sources, but it would be even better if it received assistance and even encouragement from developed countries like the US. This is not about politics but technological readiness, which means Indonesia would have a clear choice of technologies.
The simple fact is that the US is still one of the global centers of technological advancement. A partnership between Indonesia and Biden’s America in renewable energy would be a dream come true.
Such a partnership is not entirely new. In November 2010, then-presidents Obama and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a comprehensive partnership between the two nations. The partnership resulted in many things, including the US$18 million Indonesia Clean Energy Development program and the $1.2 million Sustainable Energy for Remote Indonesia Grids (SERIG) project.
For the SERIG project, the US’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) carried out two years of research (from 2013) to explore ways to deliver cost-effective renewable energy to Indonesians in remote areas.
I personally love this phrase I found in “Our Amazing Clean Energy Future Has Arrived”, an article by Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever published on Jan. 23 in Foreign Policy: “When we talk to our future grandchildren, we will be able to refer to this decade as the one in which the switch flipped and the planet adopted a tremendously promising green future.”
What a beautiful new normal that would be, if we can truly make the era of renewable energy a reality – for Indonesia and the rest of the world.