Methodology

Architecture

CoalSwarm’s Proposed Coal Plant Tracker uses a two-level system for organizing information. Summary information is maintained in Google sheets, with a separate sheet for each country (outside India and China) and for each state or province (inside India and China). Each worksheet row tracks an individual coal plant unit. A wiki page is then created for each power station within the CoalSwarm website. When information about a proposed power station changes, the changes are made to both the spreadsheet and wiki page.

Research Process

Preliminary lists of plants in each country are gathered from public and private data sources including Global Energy Observatory, CARMA, BankTrack’s “Dirty Deals” list, Kara Atlas (Turkey), Wikipedia, Enipedia, SourceWatch, WRI’s “Global Coal Risk Assessment” report (2012), Platts UDI World Energy Power Plant database, Industcards “Power Plants Around the World Photo Gallery,” India Central Electricity Authority’s “Monthly Report on Broad Status of Thermal Power Projects in the Country,” National Integrated Resource Plans, reports by state-owned and private utilities, and national-level trackers by environmental advocates (US: Sierra Club; Turkey: Kara Atlas; Germany: Deutsche Umwelthilfe). For each project in China, the corresponding Chinese name was identified. For all countries, alternate names for projects were also recorded.

For each project location, a wiki page is created on the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch wiki. Wiki pages provide a repository for in-depth information including project background, financing, environmental impacts, coal types and sources, public opposition, aerial photographs, videos, links to permits, coordinates, and maps. Under standard wiki convention, each piece of information is linked to a published reference, such as a news article, company report, or regulatory permit.

In order to ensure data integrity in the open-access wiki environment of SourceWatch, CoalSwarm researchers review all edits of project wiki pages by unknown editors, an infrequent occurrence.

For each proposed coal plant unit, one of the following status categories is assigned and reviewed every six months:

  • Announced: Proposed plants that have appeared in corporate or government plans but have not yet moved actively forward by applying for permits or seeking land, coal, or financing. Typically such a project is the “Phase II” at a location where “Phase I” is currently under development.
  • Pre-permit development: Plants that are seeking environmental approvals and pursuing other developmental steps such as securing land and water rights. In India, this means that a “Terms of Reference” has been received from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF). In China, this means a feasibility study has been completed.
  • Permitted: All necessary environmental approvals have been received but the project has not yet begun construction. In India, this means a project has received an “Environmental Clearance” permit from the MoEF. In China, this means a plant has received a permit from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) or from a provincial DRC, allowing for construction.
  • Construction: Site preparation and other development and construction activities are underway.
  • Shelved: In the absence of an announcement that the sponsor is putting its plans on hold, a project is considered “shelved” if there are reports of activity over a period of two years.
  • Cancelled: In some cases a sponsor announces that it has has cancelled a project. More often a project fails to advance and then quietly disappears from company documents. A project that was previously in an active category is moved to “Cancelled” if it disappears from company documents, even if no announcement is made. In the absence of a cancellation announcement, a project is considered “cancelled” if there are no reports of activity over a period of four years.
  • Operating: The plant has been formally commissioned or has entered commercial operation.

Once wiki pages are created and summary data sets compiled, they are circulated for review to researchers familiar with local conditions and languages.

Carbon dioxide emissions

For each coal plant unit, the tracker calculates carbon dioxide emissions based on the following:

  • unit capacity;
  • emission factor (pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu) for each type of coal;
  • heat rate for each combustion technology (Btu/kWh), adjusted for quality of coal;
  • capacity factor based on the 2012 worldwide average of 58.2 percent (IEA 2014).

Further details can be found at CoalSwarm, “Estimating carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants,” SourceWatch, at http://bit.ly/1jP1Lrw.

Mapping

To allow easy public access to the results, CoalSwarm worked with GreenInfo Network to develop a map-based and table-based interface using the Leaflet Open-Source JavaScript library. Each coal plant location is marked “exact” or “approximate.” In the case of exact coordinates,  locations have been visually determined using Google Maps, Google Earth, or Wikimapia (existing projects). For proposed projects, exact locations, if available, are from permit applications or other company documentation. As of April 2017, the GCPT included exact locations for 91.3% of generating units (6084 out of 6666). Overall, including operating, proposed, retired, and cancelled projects the tracker included exact locations for 74.8% (8942 out of 11947 generating units).