CoalWire 137, June 9, 2016

June 9, 2016

editor’s note

The unofficial warning by the Indian Government’s Ministry of Power that no company should start building new coal plants in the next three years may well be a critical turning point in preventing further damage to the global climate. Another setback for the export coal industry came when a Chinese utility official revealed – contrary to coal industry hype – that a new higher-efficiency coal plant was operating using as much as one-third of low-grade Indonesian coal. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has ruled that highly-polluting Utah power stations must install pollution control equipment to help clear the air. Meanwhile the signs of transition away from coal abound. In May the UK, hardly the sunniest place in the world, generated more electricity from solar than coal for the first time ever.

Bob Burton

features

How Asia is changing course on coal

There are signs that major Asian economies are changing their minds on coal, writes Joanna Mills in Greenpeace’s Energydesk.

Tweet: Countries across Asia are having second thoughts about their grand #coal plans bit.ly/24zshMd pic.twitter.com/3we7aWiLrQ

Vattenfall’s German coal giveaway plan to Czech company may yet backfire

Plans by Swedish state-owned utility Vattenfall to offload its German lignite business to the Czech energy company EPH may yet backfire, writes Gerard Wynn from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.

Tweet: #Vattenfall’s German #coal giveaway plan to Czech company may yet backfire http://bit.ly/1TXarTU @ieefa_institute

UK coal phase-out no threat to keeping the lights on

The UK’s planned coal phase-out is achievable without the lights going out, writes Ben Caldecott in Conservative Home.

Tweet: Ignore the scaremongering – phasing out #coal won’t make the lights go out | Conservative Home https://t.co/ppHYGIvm15

campaigns

Utah power plants ordered to clear the hazy air

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed that two highly-polluting coal plants in Utah must install pollution control equipment in order to reduce haze which affects the visibility and air quality in national parks such as Canyonlands National Park, and communities as far afield as Colorado and Arizona. The EPA has ordered a 76 per cent reduction – within five years – in nitrous oxide emissions from two units at each of Rocky Mountain Power’s Hunter and Huntington power plants in central Utah. The decision follows over five years of campaigning with more than 55,000 public comments submitted on the draft proposal. (Salt Lake Tribune, Sierra Club)

top news

No need for new coal plants says Indian official: The Ministry of Power has concluded slowing demand growth means India doesn’t need any additional power plants over the next three years beyond plants already under construction, or renewable projects which the government is committed to. “This clearly signals that any thermal power plant that is yet to begin construction should back off,” said an anonymous ministry official. (Economic Times)


Residents seek dismissal of US coal ash company slander suit: Residents of a poor, mostly African-American community in Alabama are seeking the dismissal of a US$30 million slander suit launched by Georgia-based Green Group Holdings. The company, which has dumped millions of tonnes of coal ash in a landfill in Uniontown, Alabama, had offered not to sue the four members of Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice if they apologised for comments made in Facebook postings, provided access to electronic devices, handed over details of the group’s membership and provided details on dealings with other environmental groups. (Guardian, EcoWatch)


Japan approves funding for Indonesian plant: The Japan Bank for International Cooperation and a coalition of Japanese and Singaporean banks have approved a US$3.4 billion loan for the 2000 megawatt (MW) Batang coal-fired power plant in Central Java, sparking calls for the decision to be reversed. The plant, which is proposed by a consortium including the Japanese utility J-Power, has been strongly resisted by villagers despite threats and intimidation. (BankTrack, Friends of the Earth Japan)

China blows hole in high-efficiency hype: On a tour for journalists organised by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) the general manager of a new higher-efficiency plant in China revealed one-third of the coal for the plant was low-grade Indonesian coal. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis argues the revelation exposes the myth that new higher-efficiency coal plants require higher quality coal such as exported from Australia. (Australian Financial Review, IEEFA)


Alarm over Colombia’s Cerrejon mine plan: Local residents and a global network of groups and researchers have expressed alarm over the plan by Cerrejon Coal Company – a joint venture between BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American – to divert the Arroyo Bruno stream which is a vital water supply for residents. An open letter to the company and its joint-venture partners has also raised concerns about the health impacts of the mine, the displacement of local communities and the company’s divisive approach to negotiating with local residents. (London Mining Network)


Engie loses legal claim over Hazelwood mine drain: A subsidiary of Engie, which owns the Hazelwood mine and power station, has lost a Court of Appeal challenge seeking to force a local council to take on financial responsibility for maintaining the Morwell Main Drain, a 4.9-kilometre channel which runs through the mine. The council feared being hit with a liability of up to US$75 million. The decision is the latest setback for Engie, which is currently considering the possible sale or closure of the Hazelwood power station, Australia’s dirtiest. (The Age)

news

Australia: Rio Tinto fined US$11,000 for blast at Hunter Valley mine recorded at over 125 decibels.


Indonesia: BHP Billiton sells 75 per cent stake in IndoMet Coal Project in Kalimantan to Adaro Energy.


Italy: Tirreno Power Board bows to legal and public pressure and closes Vado Ligure plant.

UK: For the month of May solar generated more power than coal for the first time ever.


US: Costs of Kemper CCS plant hits US$6.74 billion as a further US$20 million is added to its price tag.


US: Investigation into damaging mudslide from mine owned by candidate for Governor of West Virginia.

“[We placed] too much emphasis for too long on conventional [coal and gas power] generation … We didn’t see the radical nature of the change and the speed of that change,”

said Johannes Teyssen, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the German utility E.On on the rapid rise of renewable power.

companies + markets

Danish pension fund flags coal retreat: A major Danish pension fund, PKA, has written to 53 companies which get between a quarter and a half of their revenue from coal, seeking details on how they plan to reduce their role with coal. The fund has already dumped investments in 31 coal companies, including Whitehaven Coal in Australia and Bumi Resources in Indonesia. In the US the District of Columbia Government’s US$6.4 billion pension fund has divested from all companies included in the Carbon Underground 200 list. (Financial Times, DC Divest)


BHP Billiton spend on CCS to defend met coal: BHP Billiton has announced a US$7 million agreement over three years to “identify the key policy, technical and economic barriers” to the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage in China’s industrial sector with a particular emphasis on the steel industry. BHP Billiton – the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal and a major iron ore exporter – is seeking to position itself as an early mover in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from steel production at a time when China is closing steel capacity, in part to reduce pollution in some areas. (BHP Billiton, BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie)

Losses at Peabody Australia hit US$2 billion: In 2015 Peabody Australia incurred losses of US$2 billion with liabilities now exceeding its assets by $3 billion, according to its annual statement. Peabody Australia’s auditors flagged there is “significant uncertainty” whether the company can continue on a viable basis. In 2015 Peabody Australia produced 36 million tonnes of coal. Financial analyst Credit Suisse notes that if the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of the US parent company Peabody Energy fails, creditors could lodge a claim against the holding company of the Australian subsidiary. (Sydney Morning Herald)


Stern warns on fossil fuel companies’ post-Paris complacency: A submission co-authored by Lord Nicholas Stern to the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures has warned fossil fuel assets could be hit by “mass scrapping and stranding.” “From an investor point of view, it is one thing for a business to assume that governments were not serious in Paris, but it is quite another to pin their entire strategy on this being so,” the submission states. (Financial Times, CityAM)

resources

The Hole Truth: The mess coal companies plan to leave in NSW, Energy & Resource Insights, June 2016. (Pdf)

This 32-page report reviews 45 open-cut pits approved or planned to be left after open-cut coal mining in New South Wales ceases, with profound implications for local communities and water catchments.

Tweet: Report reveals #coal companies plan to leave area bigger than Sydney Harbour as huge holes http://bit.ly/1Uo6EJz pic.twitter.com/kcFRDzioQR


Keeping the Lights On: security of supply after coal, Bright Blue, June 2016. (Pdf)

This 44-page report, based on the modelling of three scenarios for the UK’s coal plant phase-out by 2025, argues the exit from coal could be brought forward to 2023 without increased risk to the country’s energy security.

 

 

Water demands of coal power plants in drought affected regions of India, Greenpeace India, June 2016. (Pdf)

This 13-page report calculates existing coal plants in seven drought-affected states consume enough water for 250 million people, a figure which would double if all proposed coal plants were built.

Tweet: @Greenpeaceindia report reveals the insatiable thirst of #coal plants in drought affected regions of #India http://bit.ly/1TUmImw