Indonesia enlists Muslim clerics to promote clean energy

the Grand Mosque Baiturrahman, Aceh.

David Firnando Silalahi, Australian National University

The latest IPCC report recommends that we need to cut greenhouse gasses emission hard and fast as the Earth continues to warm causing more frequent and severe weather and threatening the lives of Earth’s inhabitants.

One of the major cuts should come from the energy sector. As fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes accounted for 78% of greenhouse gas emissions, rapid transition from fossil energy to cleaner energy is more important than ever.

Countries worldwide have embarked on various initiatives to encourage the development of clean energy.

The latest move in this green initiative involves religious leaders promoting fossil fuel transition.

In 2018, Pope Francis has urged people and businesses to reduce the use of fossil fuels and find a way to use green energy to save the climate.

Meanwhile, Morocco has installed solar panels under its Green Mosques Initiative on more than 100 mosques roofs. They have also trained Moroccan imams and female clerics to raise awareness of sustainability energy

Following Morocco’s step, the Indonesian government involves clerics and religious organisations to promote green energy in the country where nearly 90% of its 270 million population are Muslims.

Muslim clerics can help educate the community

Indonesia has faced tremendous challenges in its efforts to develop renewable energy. The country still relies heavily on fossil energy.

The government recently engaged with Islamic leaders and communities to help the country achieve net-zero emissions by 2060.

Conserving nature and the environment is one of Islam’s precepts. Thus, the use of clean energy is also ethically and morally important.

Holding onto that principle, last year, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry signed a partnership agreement with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Muslim organisation, to enhance environmental management and sustainable forestry.

This partnership is vital because there are over 28,800 Islamic boarding schools with millions of Muslim students affiliated with NU.

Engaging with religious figures is a strategic move. A 2020 survey reveals that Indonesian citizens placed the highest trust in information sourced from religious figures.

The government can collaborate with Muslim religious leaders to campaign the urgency of using cleaner energy as a part of the Islamic creed: rahmatan lil alamin (a mercy to all creation).

Religious leaders can explain why Indonesians have to reduce carbon emissions to keep the Earth safe during their talks. They can encourage people to utilise more renewable energy, such as harvesting solar energy from the rooftops of their houses.

The government also can develop similar agreements with other religious organisations such as Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Muslim organisation, and the Indonesian Ulema Council to accelerate achieving their climate targets.

Both organisations have started their own grassroots eco-movement such as Ecomasjid or green mosque led by Indonesian Ulema Council..

Making greener Islamic site

With the help from religious clerics, Indonesia could also promote clean energy by making religious sites greener.

Indonesia is the home of Southeast Asia’s biggest mosque, Istiqlal, and it recently won an award from the International Finance Corporation as the first eco-friendly religious site in the world. after installing 150-kilowatt peak (kWp) solar panels on its roof..

The panels can supply 16% of the Istiqlal’s total electricity demand.

Figure 1. Solar rooftop installation on Masjid Istiqlal.

There are 290,000 mosques across Indonesia. Installing solar energy on their roofs can be a significant drive for clean energy development in the country.

Assuming all mosques’ roofs host one kWp, with a potential of 3.4 kilowatt-hours (kWh) minimum electricity production per kWp of solar energy, mosques across the country can generate one million kWh of electricity every day. It’s almost equal to annual electricity consumption for a thousand Indonesians.

Solar panels emit a small amount of carbon – 50grams of CO₂ equivalent per kWh – during their lifetime. Meanwhile, coal power plants emit over 1000grams CO₂ equivalent per kWh, which contributes 60% to the country’s total electricity generation.

How can we make it happen?

First, the government can equip religious figures, including mosque managers, with knowledge about the importance of clean energy. With this knowledge, religious figures and mosque managers can educate and inspire people about clean energy during their sermons. Indonesia may learn from Morroco’s experience.

However, the work doesn’t end there since rooftop solar installation is still expensive.

A study finds that despite the carbon reduction benefit, installing a rooftop PV system on a mosque is financially unfeasible. Mosques are categorised as social activity customers, receiving electricity subsidies between Rp 545-1120 (US$ 4-8 cents) per kWh (Figure 2). This policy makes solar generation far more expensive than subsidised tariffs.

Figure 2. Subsidized tariff for social customers (Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources)

To answer this, the Indonesian government has provided an incentive of Rp 9 million (US$ 630) for solar panel installations at houses, small businesses, schools and religious sites..

Indonesia’s Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry should collaborate with the Religious Affairs Ministry to push this green mosque project. The latter ministry can, for example, set aside 1% of its yearly budget (over Rp 67 trillion (US$ 4.7 billion)) to help mosques install their rooftop solar panels.

These direct funds could make mosques across the country part of Indonesia’s sustainable living in five years.The Conversation

David Firnando Silalahi, Phd Candidate, School of Engineering, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: Antara/Yusuf Nugroho

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