Revealing the potential of bioenergy and biodiversity in the remote forests of Indonesia

A global research team led by Birmingham City University (BCU) are using cutting edge technology to survey the remote island forests of Indonesia, for a project which is poised to help address the region’s energy challenges.

Research background – the search for alternative sustainable energy

This research, conducted in collaboration with the University of Tokyo in Japan and Gorontalo State University in Indonesia, will address the country’s bioenergy challenges.

Indonesia has set a target for 40% of its energy to come from bioenergy by 2030, in an attempt to offset its heavy reliance on fossil fuels. However, a significant proportion of the current effort appears to have relied on palm oil to achieve this target and the growth of palm plantations reached 14.6M hectares in 2019, leading to several deforestation and an unbalanced distribution of wealth in the economy.

To reduce the reliance on palm oil plantations and meet the country’s bioenergy targets, the effort shall explore alternative methods of producing bioenergy, which are sustainable and provide support for working communities.

Through digital mapping software and exploratory research, the project will aim to locate the hidden bioenergy potential of non-protected wild plant species in the Wallacea region of Indonesia.

Research methods – discovering the potential of the Wallacea islands

The project will deploy cutting edge technology across the Wallacea series of islands located between Asia and Australia to record biodiversity and sources of bioenergy, and identify routes for ecological management.

Computing academics from BCU will apply state-of-the-art digital technology across forestry and energy applications by working with fellow researchers in Indonesia and Japan.

A series of focus-group discussions and workshops throughout the region will facilitate the dialogues among the Government, energy businesses, and the forest farmer community on establishing common understanding on the viability of the forest bioeconomy, which will help accelerate towards decarbonisation and expansion of the bioenergy use in Indonesia.

This initiative builds on BCU experience in delivering the 5G Connected Forest project to improve environmentalism and tourism in the royal forest in Nottinghamshire, UK, known for its associations with the legend of Robin Hood.

Research aims – influencing international policy on sustainable energy

Collaborating with the Provincial Government of Gorontalo in Indonesia and the state-owned energy company PLN, the project will provide insights on the concentration and distribution of bioenergy across the forestry areas.

This work will inform strategic policymaking, actions, and business investment decisions on scaling up the bioenergy manufacturing infrastructure, assisting the country in meeting the bioenergy target by 2030.

Engaging with the forest farmer groups, the project will also initiate capacity building for community-centred bioenergy production. By working with a forestry non-governmental organisation, the project will organise a series of focus group discussion and workshop involving the forest farmer communities on sustainable management of and economic production from forest natural resources underpinned by forest bioenergy. 

This approach will provide education on alternative forest economy activities that will improve revenue generation from forest farming, yet will remain environmental friendly. Through this engagement, the project will raise the awareness of balancing economy with environmental sustainability.

Through the British Council, the project will also offer a fantastic opportunity of reporting interim research findings to the UN’s premier conference on Climate Change: COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November 2021. 

Taufiq Asyhari

Associate Professor in Networks and Communications

Taufiq is an Associate Professor in the School of Computing and Digital technology and the Head of the Future Information Networks (FINET) Research Cluster at Birmingham City University (BCU).

received the PhD degree in Information Engineering from Trinity Hall, the University of Cambridge, UK, and the BEng (1st Class Hons) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Before joining BCU in March 2020, he had a long international career in information technology and computing research, including in the UK (Cranfield and Coventry Universities), Taiwan (National Chiao Tung University), Germany (Bell Labs) and Singapore (Institute for Infocomm Research).