This article was published by The Jakarta Post

The Center of Excellence ( CoE ) was launched at the Bali Clean Energy Forum ( BCEF ) February. The CoE was established to facilitate with the integration of research and development, investment and deployment of clean energy and related technologies. CoE initiatives are planned to be developed all over Indonesia.

Beyond energy demand, Indonesia needs to address domestic and global challenges on renewable energy and climate change. The CoE links global targets to domestic priorities. The focus is on well defined and broadly endorsed national priorities. The CoE wants to strengthen national capacity and create enabling environments. However, one important aspect is missing in the CoE mission stated at the BCEF, and that is about building the energy-agriculture nexus. 

Agriculture accounts for 34.8 percent of the energy consumed in the industry sector. Therefore, it is important for stakeholders to connect energy demand with the agriculture sector.

The energy-agriculture nexus can serve as a key platform for sustainable development. Direct and indirect energy inputs are needed in agricultural value chains. Production, post-harvest processing, storing and cooling are energy-intense steps of many agricultural value chains. Reducing energy consumption at processing plants presents high potential for increasing energy efficiency. Options for financing alternative energy solutions very much depend on the specific context, such as the institutional setting. The energy-agriculture nexus also provides substantial business opportunities along agricultural value chains.

The nexus harbors potential for the involvement of renewable energy. The use of renewable energy in rural remote areas could help farmers increase productivity and earn more money by adding value to their produces, e.g. through controlled drying of fruits and vegetables, cheese production from milk, off-season production of fruits and vegetables through irrigation, etc. 

The potential for using renewable energy in agriculture is plentiful and has many advantages compared to conventional technologies like diesel generators. A high degree of integration of renewables into agricultural processes can increase efficiency, decrease environmental impacts and reduce production costs. 

Some renewable energy resource is available in any location, it is just important to choose the adequate source or a good combination of sources. Bioenergy and solar energy are two potential renewable energy sources for agriculture. Bioenergy has a direct linkage to agriculture, because agricultural activities/processes need energy and energy-generating technologies can use agricultural waste products as inputs. 

This can be considered a circular economy concept, which is gaining importance in recent years for the efficient use of resources. The circular economy calls for minimizing new resource extraction and maximizing the re-use and recycling of already extracted resources. Agricultural value webs offer significant opportunities for applying the circular economy approach.

Meanwhile, solar energy has two applications within the circular economy, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic ( PV ). Solar energy has significant potential to be integrated into agricultural value webs, from very small to large-scale applications. Solar PV systems, already used in almost all countries worldwide — ranging from large-scale power generation to small-scale solar home systems for lighting, could play a vital role in water pumping, taking advantage of cheaper ( water ) storage systems. 

Either PV pumps could replace water pumps running on fossil fuels or grid electricity, or they open a door for farmers to increase agricultural productivity through irrigation, even if the technology is very simple and can be manufactured locally. As for thermal solar energy, solar dryers are an important example of preservation and value addition to fruit and vegetable products.

In bioenergy, the basic process is the translation of organic matter into a final product that is used to produce energy. Feedstock to produce bioenergy is abundant in Indonesia, it includes: Food waste, farm manure and slurries, agro-industrial wastewaters and crop residue. Biogas is one for of bioenergy that has many different end uses, such as cogeneration to produce electricity and heat, cooking fuel, to power lights and to drive vehicles. 

Cogeneration is the production of electricity from biogas and the use of the waste heat from the generation process. Biogas can be used in simple cooking stoves and for lighting to replace traditional fuel sources like kerosene and wood. Biogas also can be converted into vehicle fuel as compressed natural gas ( CNG ).

After choosing the renewable energy sources, the stakeholders need to take into account three stages: energy efficiency, energy auditing and product life cycle assessment. 

Energy efficiency is a way of managing and restraining the growth in energy consumption. Second is energy auditing, which analyses processes or systems in regard to their energy usage and energy loss. By reviewing load patterns, executing site visits and measuring process energy demands, suitable energy efficiency measures can be discovered.

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