A woman sprays herbicides in an oil palm plantation in West Sumatra. Photo: May Thazin Aung / SEI

Though Indonesia has committed to reducing carbon emissions within national and international policy arenas, political pressures and economic dependencies stand in the way of realizing these goals. At the same time, rapidly depleting fossil reserves and the need for energy access across the nation demand transition to sustainable, low-carbon, and equitable energy systems. As the energy sector transitions from fossil-fuel to renewable energy, new opportunities for a more inclusive energy workforce, known as just transitions, are emerging.

The authors of this SEI policy paper examine these issues through case studies conducted in West Sumatra, Indonesia. Their findings are based on focus group discussions and key informant interviews with community members, provincial energy authorities, non-government organizations, and the private sector to understand perceptions around renewable-energy projects.

Renewable energy policies may have different effects on members of different social groups such as women, elderly, the poor and members of indigenous and ethnic groups. The authors find that exploring the potential repercussions of policies by adopting a gender-sensitive approach to renewable energy decision-making will produce results that benefit more people and satisfy the needs of more communities and interest groups. Without efforts to include women in the decision-making process, community-led renewable-energy efforts may replicate or further entrench existing inequalities and keep women in their traditional domestic roles.

As Indonesia begins its process towards an uneasy renewable-energy transition, it is important to prioritize gender and social equity considerations in more holistic energy planning. In decision-making on renewable-energy policy, a gender-sensitive approach could seek to understand how policies will affect members of different social groups and to find solutions to achieve equitable outcomes.