Can Indonesia’s New Capital be Sustainable?
Tue, 24 Sep 2019 || By Theodore Great

Indonesia has finally launched its plan to move the capital city to East Kalimantan. Among other features, the government envisions a new capital city which does not only possess the latest technology but also sustainable. Sustainable means that the capital will be preserved for this generation and the generation to come. Sustainability could be measured by three different factors which are society, environment, and the economic aspect.[1] The Ministry of Public Works has mentioned that the new capital city will also consider the environmental aspect with the concept of “A City in the Forest.”[2] This article will discuss the following questions to explore the new capital’s sustainability prospects.

Q1: What are the key technologies needed to ensure sustainability?

There are various new technologies concerning sustainability that is often linked with the smart city concept. The core tenets of creating a ‘smart’ city lie in the interactions between energy and technology. This happens because a city is essentially a “complex, dynamic, and energy-intensive” system.[3] Therefore, to ensure sustainability in the new capital, the preservation of energy becomes a very important aspect. In this sense, there are at least two aspects that require attention: the energy capture and the usage of that energy.

Currently, 92.7% of Indonesia’s energy production is on fossil fuels, while new and renewable energy only accounts for 7.3% of total energy source.[4]  As the reserve of fossil fuels is limited and the extraction process created large carbon footprints that contribute to climate change[5], Indonesia is urgently needed to invest in renewable energy resources. This is highly visible, as Indonesia does not only have vast fossil fuel resources but also renewables that could come from water, wind, soil, hydrogen, tidal waves, biomass, biogas, geothermal, etc. Therefore, the fundamental technology in a sustainable capital city is smart energy technology that not only captures renewables but also how it could be efficiently distributed across the city. 

One of the energy-related projects that could be done in the new capital city is the application of smart grid. Smart grid technology is “self-sufficient systems that can find solutions to problems quickly in an available system that reduces the workforce and targets sustainable, reliable, safe and quality electricity to all consumers.”[6] As a self-reliant system it is comprised of the integration of various technologies such as IoT, data analytics, information and communication systems, security of the system, etc.[7] Moreover, the data analytics inside smart grid should not only be used only in energy management but also in other resources and trash management. As the historical data could give insights about past usage and could be used as the basis of future planning. Moreover, if the system could be optimized, the full benefit of smart grid could then be obtained.

Indonesia's new capital

Picture 1. The Benefits of Smart Grid[8]

Q2: How to solve the challenges in implementing those technologies?

Currently, sustainable or ‘green’ technology has its challenges to be implemented as it usually requires high cost at the beginning. However, in the long term, this technology does not require many resources and the amount of energy is almost unlimited. For example, the solar panel is very expensive when it is built, but afterward, the electricity bill will significantly decline. In facing the financial burden, the Indonesian government could seek for collaboration with its partners such as the European Union, China, or the US who already invest a lot in sustainable technologies.[9] Beyond country to country partner, the regional collaboration like the ASEAN Renewable Energy Policies (ASEAN-RSEP) could be used to access the investment pool.[10] However, Indonesia should not only focus on financial resources but also in the technology transfer from smart-city experts. As a result, a sustainable capital city could be achieved, especially as the capital will be built from scratch, it will be easier to implement the new technologies.

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Editor: Janitra Haryanto


[1] UN ECOSOC. (2019). Sustainable Development. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[2] Idhom, A.M. (2019). Rencana Desain Ibu Kota Baru di Kaltim: Luas, Konsep & Tata Ruang. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Sep. 2019].

[3] Battarra, R., Fistola, R. and La Rocca, R.A. (2016). City SmartNESS: the Energy Dimension of the Urban System. In: R. Papa and R. Fistola, eds. Smart Energy in the Smart City. [online] Cham: Springer International Publishing.p.2. Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[4] Ministry of Finance Republic of Indonesia and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources Republic Indonesia. (2019). Indonesia G20 Self-Report IFFS, p.36.

[5] Anon. (2019). Fossil fuels—facts and information. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[6] Bayindir, R., Colak, I., Fulli, G., and Demirtas, K. (2016). Smart grid technologies and applications. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, [online] Volume 66, p. 499. Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[7] Ibid.

[8] Anon (2019). Indonesia Smart Grid Initiative. [online] PJCI. Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[9] Kejun, J. and Woetzel, J. (2017). How China is leading the renewable energy revolution. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: [Accessed 15 Sep. 2019].

[10] ASEAN Centre for Energy. (2016). ASEAN Renewable Energy Policies (RSEP). [online] Available at: .