The Nagan Raya Power Plant (also known as the Meulaboh Power Plant) is a 2x110MW coal-fired power plant with a further capacity of 2x200MW under construction. It is located next to the city of Meulaboh in Suak Puntong Village, Kuala Pesisir District in the Nagan Raya Regency of Aceh Province, Indonesia.
The first two units of the plant were commissioned by Indonesian state electricity distribution company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) in 2008, when it awarded an engineering procurement contract (EPC) to Sinohydro Co. Ltd (now a subsidiary of the Power Construction Corporation of China) worth US$247.4 million. 15% of the financing for this project came in the form of equity from PLN, while loans from the Export-Import Bank of China (US$124.34 million) and the ASBANDA regional development bank association (Rp614.34 billion, which amounted to about US$66.595 million at the time) were taken out to cover the remaining funding needed  . These first 2x110MW units were part of a national energy project by the Indonesian government to supply an additional 10,000MW of electricity capacity by the end of 2010, although they were ultimately completed in 2013 and 2014, respectively  .
Units 3 and 4 on the other hand seem to be part of the government’s more recent long-term initiative to construct a further 35,000MW of capacity across the country. PLN signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for these two new units in May 2017 with a consortium consisting of one Chinese company – China Datang Overseas Investment – and two Indonesian corporations – PT Pembangunan Perumahan (through its subsidiary PP Energi) and PT Sumberdaya Sewatama. This agreement obliges the consortium to provide electricity for a 25 year period after construction and in order to fully comply they have set up a Special Purpose Company, named PT Meulaboh Power Generation, that is solely focused on the plant. At the time, the new project was estimated to cost approximately US$600 million, with funding coming from the consortium’s own equity as well as domestic and international loans, although it is not clear which financial institutions are involved . Construction of the two newest units was supposed to be finished in mid-2020, but this date was postponed to 2024 due to the COVID-19 pandemic . They are also being constructed at a small distance from the original two units on the border between Nagan Raya Regency and West Aceh Regency, which might be cause for legal action (see below).
In the meantime, the electricity that is being generated by units 1 and 2 has been distributed throughout Aceh to resolve local electricity shortages, particularly on the west and south coasts of the province. According to PLN, the regencies of Aceh Jaya, West Aceh, Southwest Aceh, and Nagan Raya itself are among the places being supplied with energy from the power plant . More recently, however, a local lawmaker has asserted that electricity from the plant is going to areas outside of the province, without specifying any exact destinations, and has asked plant management to (re)prioritize Aceh . The active units use an average of 50,000 tons of coal/month, which is mostly shipped from Kalimantan (about 90% of the overall quantity). From 2017 onwards, the remaining 10% has been supplied by the nearby Mifa Bersaudara coal mine, which had been in operation since the year prior. Despite the greater distance and associated shipping costs, the plant continues to primarily rely on Kalimantan coal because the caloric value of Mifa Bersaudara coal is significantly lower than that of the former  .
The operation and expansion of the plant has had several socio-environmental impacts on its surroundings, the most prominent of which is the persistent presence of harmful coal dust and general air pollution in the vicinity of the plant and the construction site  . This dust originates from the chimneys of the working units, but is also a consequence of the many trucks that drive along the village to the construction site, often carrying materials that easily leave their trace in the local atmosphere and sometimes even spill onto the side of the road . Local residents have complained about the dusty roads and some residents that used to trade their products at the side of the roads had to move away due to the dust . Moreover, the coal dust problem is closely related to the issue of land compensation for the residents of Suak Puntong, home to approximately 850 people , as many people have wanted to move away because of it. 65 families were promised land elsewhere and monetary compensation by the power plant since the establishment of the first two units. However, of the 150 ha that was promised, only 78 ha has been distributed (all of which before the plant was even in operation, making it years since any progress was made on this issue) and many villagers are still living in subpar air quality conditions .
Furthermore, the drainage system for the power plant’s wastewater is directly connected to residential waterways, with locals reporting that fish have died in the canals and that even livestock (i.e. chickens, cows and ducks) has perished . This particular phenomenon was investigated by the Nagan Raya Environmental and Sanitation Service (DLHK), which confirmed the presence of chemicals from the power plant in the water and conceded that this might be connected with the deaths of some of the fish. Nonetheless, it holds that most of the fish deaths can be attributed to sudden temporary increases in water temperature when the plant flushes its wastewater out and that the plant is not actually polluting local waterways, as it is permitted to use certain chemicals as long as the quantity does not exceed a certain established threshold . Other socio-environmental impacts include the increased prevalence of seawater overflows (and possibly higher tides in general) as a result of the land clearing that was done for construction of the newer units , as well as public roads being damaged due to heavy machinery and trucks extensively using them to reach the construction site . The fact that the plant ships in most of its coal supply has also caused an additional environmental impact: in July 2020, a barge carrying over 300 tons of coal capsized near the coast of Suak Puntong. No cleaning efforts were made as the coal was allowed to simply wash up on shore over time. Local fisherfolk and other residents expressed concern over the state of their beaches and the health of the fish on which a lot of people depend for their income . It was reported in March 2021 that the stranded coal barge was still not removed after 7 months .
As a result of all these (potential) impacts, the plant has not gone unopposed, especially in recent years. Starting in September 2018, villagers have started to put up banners protesting the pervasive air pollution in their community . Since the beginning of construction on units 3 and 4, the calls for overdue land compensation have also grown significantly stronger and more urgent, as residents were never asked for their approval or consulted for the new Amdal (Environmental Impact Assessment) and thus feel doubly neglected . To take matters into their own hands, beginning in May 2019, mothers and women in general have been on the forefront of organizing protests and blockading the construction site entrance – either with their physical presence or with barriers like barbed wire fences – thus preventing the trucks from delivering their building materials . They have also been known once to close the channels via which wastewater reached residential areas with sandbags . These kinds of blockades have been organized multiple times, specifically by local women, in 2019 (May, November)  and 2020 (February, June)  . One violent incident (not directly connected to the women’s blockades) was recorded in July 2019, when two residents of Suak Puntong Village were beaten by power plant guards after a discussion about land compensation at the plant. They were hospitalized for a broken hand and a head gash. Local organization Suak Punton Youth called for an immediate stop to the construction and residents were incensed, while plant management promised to assuage residents’ anger but did not commit to stopping the construction process .
Environmental and civil society organizations have been involved to a certain degree. The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has highlighted (among other location discrepancies in the Amdal) the fact that units 3 and 4 are located on the border between Nagan Raya and West Aceh and has asked the governor of Aceh to review the provincial issuance of the plant’s environmental permit based on this irregularity . Apart from this, Walhi has urged residents and local governments to keep a close eye on the construction of the two new units with regards to the environmental damage it might inflict and its compliance with the Amdal . In response to the July 2020 coal spillage, Walhi has urged the local government to calculate the extent of the environmental loss incurred and to make the company pay for these damages. They also suggested revoking the plant's environmental permit, if necessary, to avoid any similar incidents in the future and to refrain from assessing the plant's Amdal until sufficient cleaning efforts have been carried out . Lastly, the Student Alliance for Environmental and Social Concern (AMPLAS) has expressed criticism of the power plant’s management and its unwillingness to listen to the public .
As of January 2023, the power plant is seemingly still in operation (unit 1 and 2) and under construction (unit 3 and 4). While the blockades organized by local women might have slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no sign that they will stop being organized anytime soon, as the main issue of land compensation has not been resolved. Beginning in June 2020, political and governmental actors, like the Ministry of Manpower, have gotten involved in the workings of the power plant. However, this is due to the presence of undocumented Chinese laborers on the plant’s premises and is unlikely to have an effect on the overall future of the plant or its attitude regarding the environment and the local population .