Authors: Vivid Amalia Khusna and Mayora Bunga Swastika*
Women and vulnerable groups play key drivers of the innovative and inclusive energy sector for a successful clean energy transition. Recognizing the importance of the gender and social inclusion perspective (GESI) in the energy sector, the seventh SDG prioritized adequate access to clean and affordable energy as a universal right.
However, many countries, including Indonesia, have not addressing GESI issues in their energy policy. Even though Indonesia has included an agenda for gender mainstreaming and social inclusion in its mid-term plan (RPJMN) from 2010. As a result, women and vulnerable groups in Indonesia still have difficulty accessing or obtaining equivalent energy facilities. In addition, they still need to play more roles in making and implementing policies in the energy sector.
GESI Issues in the Energy Sector
Limited access to energy often adversely affects vulnerable groups. In Indonesia, at least 318 thousand households do not have access to electricity, with the majority of them living in rural areas. As a result, some activities cannot be carried out optimally, such as learning and economic activities, which are limited to being carried out at a specific time and with certain equipment. This circumstance creates a significant educational and economic disparity between those with access to electricity and those without access.
Furthermore, 74 million Indonesians lack access to clean cooking fuels, forcing women, the primary food producers at home, to rely on solid fuels (coal and firewood).
However, using solid fuels causes air pollution, producing delicate particulate matter 100 times higher than acceptable levels for humans (PM 2.5). As a result, the risk of health problems is increasing for women, children, and the elderly. The risk occurred because this group was the most likely to be at home and exposed to pollution from cooking fuel.
The decision of energy use in the home is frequently regulated by males rather than women as caretakers. Men are considered more entitled because they are the head of the household and the primary breadwinner. In addition, social and cultural conditions also limit the role of women at the household level. Women’s voices are often ignored in households, even at higher levels.
Finally, the involvement of women and marginalized groups in the energy sector remains extremely low. The condition is due to the assumption that women are better suited to administrative jobs than to more technical jobs, such as in the energy sector, as well as norms and cultures that limit women’s space. Meanwhile, other vulnerable groups are often underestimated because of the perceived lack of physical and intellectual abilities because the energy sector is seen as a skilled sector.
The perspectives of women and vulnerable groups are critical in accelerating the energy transition since they are the individuals who suffer the most from the usage of unclean energy. Therefore, an energy policy must consider GESI issues, including the aspirations of women and marginalized communities, so existing policies can be effective and long-term.
The Successful Story
Nepal is one of the countries that is becoming concerned about the GESI issue. Since 2006, Nepal’s energy policy has been more responsive to GESI challenges. Their support for the GESI issue is evident in the Rural Energy Policy 2006 and the Renewable Energy Subsidy Policy 2006. These policy focuses on community management, increasing end-user productivity, and including excluded groups in user committees.
As a result, from 2009 to 2011, there was a 187% increase in installed micro-hydro system capacity after introducing the policy. Finally, power generated by micro-hydro affects the education, health, and income of rural communities, as well as the time and workload of women.
Another story came up from Peru. In 2012, the Peruvian government established the Social Inclusion Energy Fund (FISE) to provide clean energy to the country’s most disadvantaged populations and to combat energy poverty. By 2019, over 2.9 million households had received electricity price subsidies, and 177,609 solar panels had been installed. Most panels were installed in homes and health and education buildings, powering essential services in vulnerable communities.
Recommendations for Indonesia’s Energy Policy
With the occurrence caused by a lack of mainstreaming GESI concerns, the urgency for mainstreaming these issues in Indonesian energy policy is getting bigger. Therefore, an existing energy policy assessment with the widely available GESI framework is necessary to determine how sensitive our energy policy is to this issue.
The government needs to provide energy policies for women and marginalized groups, both upstream and downstream. With this, women and marginalized groups have equal opportunities to play a role, from policy making to societal implementation. In addition, women and marginalized groups can also utilize energy according to their needs.
The government can also provide a special policy package for rural communities to help build energy systems in their areas and improve their welfare. Detailed data must first be disaggregated by gender, age, handicap, and ethnicity (if necessary) to determine the discrepancies between groups. Having complete data can aid in establishing policies and actions based on actual situations, ensuring that no program targets are missed. This effort can only be carried out by integrating the central and regional governments.
*Mayora Bunga Swastika is a research assistant at the Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center. She completed her master’s degree in International Relations at Universitas Indonesia.