July 6, 2017
Issue 190  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

The pace of the transformation of India’s energy landscape is so rapid it is hard to keep up. A new report confirming 175,000 megawatts (MW) of mostly wind and solar capacity can be accommodated by 2022 is astonishing in itself. Even more staggering though is the suggestion that by 2022 up to 46,000 MW of coal plants with very low utilisation levels could be closed – with little impact on grid reliability.

While India is in the midst of a dramatic if inconsistent shift, other countries are baulking at taking initial steps away from new coal plants. While affected communities in Myanmar protest against existing and proposed coal mines and plants, government ministers are under pressure from lobbyists – such as from Japanese companies – for new “efficient” coal plants. However, Japan’s Minister for the Environment has said claims about efficiency are irrelevant as the world moves away from coal. An upset election result in Tokyo municipal district is also likely to have a significant spillover effect on Japan’s ruling conservative government – though the impact on coal plant proposals at home and abroad is not yet clear.

A big thank you to all those who filled out the CoalWire survey. (It will still be open for a day or two more if you really want to do it.)

Finally, CoalWire will be taking a break next week. The next edition, edited by Christine Shearer, will be published on July 20. I’ll be back on deck the week after.

Bob Burton

Features

The dirty 120: the world’s biggest coal plant developers

Urgewald’s new database on companies pushing new coal plants covers about two-thirds of the global expansion for coal-fired power, writes Kathy Hipple in Huffington Post.

Top News

Myanmar community pleads for end to coal mining: A prayer ceremony led by 15 monks from over 30 villages and attended by over 600 people opposing further coal mining has prompted a coal mining company to offer compensation for damage done to farmlands. Underground coal mining near Nam Ma village in Shan state has caused cracks up to 300 metres long, 25 centimetres wide and over 7 metres deep to appear in land. Residents are also alarmed about flooded pits at an un-rehabilitated former mining site and the pollution of the local water supply by the mines. (Myanmar Times)

Myanmar Government softens stance on coal: Despite widespread community opposition to new coal plants, the Minister of Resources and Environmental Conservation, Ohn Win, said if coal plant developers “will give a pledge” that there will be “no impact on the environment, health and crops, we should accept the project.” The governing National League for Democracy, which was elected in May 2016, was initially wary of coal plants but has been lobbied by project developers and some funding governments, such as China and Japan, to approve new projects. (Eleven, Myanmar Times)

Japanese minister downplays coal, as poll result rocks government: Japan’s Environment Minister, Kouichi Yamamoto, has warned the construction of up to 41 more coal units will jeopardise the country’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement target. Yamamoto said “we are against them” and that whether plants were higher efficiency units or not was irrelevant as the world moved away from coal. The dramatic electoral gains in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly by the Tokyo Residents First party led by Yuriko Koike, a Co-Chair of the C40 network of cities addressing climate change, is widely seen as a major setback for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. (Reuters, Bloomberg)

Legal challenge filed against Philippines’ coal plants:  A legal challenge filed with the Supreme Court seeks to compel the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to comply with the Clean Air Act and take action against coal plants which are not equipped with air pollution monitoring systems. The challenge also seeks to require the Department of Energy (DOE) to comply with the provisions of the Renewable Energy Act and honour Paris Agreement commitments to cut fossil fuel use. The case is the first legal challenge in the Supreme Court against coal plants in the country. (ABS-CBN, Rappler)

No more coal approvals after 2020, say climate leaders: Former United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and five other climate scientists and analysts argue no new coal plants should be approved beyond 2020, with all existing plants to be retired as soon as possible. The paper argues all countries need to develop plans to reach 100 per cent renewable energy to keep the global temperature increase between 1.5 to 2 °C. (Guardian, Nature)

Engie to face court over Hazelwood mine fire: Hazelwood Power Corporation, which is owned by the French government-owned Engie, has been committed to stand trial on 10 charges of breaching occupational health and safety laws over the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire. The fire, which burnt for 45 days, caused extreme pollution levels in nearby towns, with a Royal Commission estimating 11 people could have died as a result. Engie closed the 1600 megawatt (MW) Hazelwood power station and mine in March. (Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News)

China sacks regulator and announces coal executive under investigation: The Chinese Government’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has sacked the deputy head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), Zhang Xiwu, accusing him of using his position for personal gain. The commission did not detail the allegations against him. Prior to his appointment to SASAC Zhang was chairman of China's coal giant Shenhua Group. The commission also recently announced the president of China Coal Energy, a coal mining company, is being investigated for suspected corruption. (Reuters)

“We’ve looked ahead, read the writing on the wall and developed an orderly plan to get out of coal,"

said a spokesperson for AGL Energy, one of Australia’s largest coal plant operators.

News

Australia: Gladstone Port seeks to widen shipping channel due to use of Wiggins Island coal terminal.

Australia: Queensland mine trials driverless bulldozers, allowing one operator to run three machines.

Germany: Protest against coal ship in Hamburg Harbour ahead of G20 meeting.

India: Tamil Nadu regulator orders Kamarajar Port to remove illegal coal stacking yard.

India: Lignite miner and power producer, NLC, diversifies into solar, winning 449 MW in Tamil Nadu tender.

South Africa: Gupta’s Optimum Coal files defamation case against community health company.

US: Navajo Nation concedes Navajo Generating Station to close in 2019 despite two-year extension.

Companies + Markets

Study confirms viability of India’s 175 GW renewables target: A study by US and Indian energy agencies has confirmed the technical and economic viability of India’s target of integrating 175,000 MW of renewable energy into the grid by 2022. The report found the plant load factor of coal plants would drop by 13 per cent to 50 per cent with “nearly” 20,000 MW “that is never economical to start.” The study also found that closing 205 coal units – with a combined capacity of 46,000 MW – with a plant load factor of 15 per cent would have “almost no effect on system operations.” (Financial Express, Greening the Grid)

Indian think tank warns of Coal India’s mine expansion target: A report into India’s energy plan by the Indian government’s think-tank, Niti Aayog, acknowledges achieving the goal of sustainability by “cutting fossil fuel consumption would promote the twin goals of sustainability and security.” The report also notes the risk that Coal India’s goal of spending US$1 billion a year to double coal production to one billion tonnes by 2019 could result in stranded assets due to lower than estimated power growth. It also recommends eliminating subsidised coal sales to power generators. (NITI Aayog)

Adani struggles to finance Carmichael mine: The chairman of Adani Enterprise, Gautam Adani, has conceded the company is struggling to raise finance for its controversial Carmichael coal project in Queensland. Anonymous sources said the State Bank of India had retreated from supporting the project. Other Indian banks would be unlikely to support the project due to the company’s already high debt levels and the unviability of the Adani Mundra plant if it burnt imported coal. (Financial Times [paywall])

Solar company pitches plan to undercut Philippines coal: The privately-owned Solar Philippines has offered to supply distribution utilities with power from 5000 MW of solar plants with battery storage at 30 per cent less than they purchase electricity from operating coal plants. As of January 2017 there were 9293 MW of proposed coal plants in the Philippines with a further 4476 MW under construction according to the Global Coal Plant Tracker. (Manila Bulletin)

German coal phase-out plan outlined: A report commissioned by Greenpeace Germany has proposed the phasing out of 46,600 MW of coal and lignite plant capacity by 2030. The report proposed 17,800 MW be closed this decade and then a pause during the next stage of the nuclear phase-out during the early 2020s to avoid a capacity shortfall. The plan proposes that between 2023 and 2029 annual coal and lignite plant closures range between 3500 MW and 5400 MW. (Greenpeace)

Resources

Coalexit.org, Urgewald, July 2017.

This new website and database details the 120 largest companies proposing or building new coal plants.

Talk is cheap: how G20 governments are financing climate disaster, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth US and Sierra Club, July 2017. (Pdf)

This 40-page report reveals G20 countries provided US$215.3 billion in public finance between 2013 and 2015 to fossil fuels, nearly four times more than to clean energy.

European Asset Owners: 2°C Alignment and Misalignment of Public Equity Portfolios, WWF, July 2017. (Pdf) (A 20-page summary is here.)

This 40-page report reveals almost half of 30 of Europe’s largest asset owners – mostly pension funds – have more exposure to coal power companies than consistent with meeting the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2°C scenario by 2020. Most have less exposure to coal mining companies than consistent with the IEA benchmarks. Fifty asset owners did not respond to the survey.

The Adani List, Market Forces, July 2017.

This web page lists all the companies with known links to Adani or the Carmichael project in Queensland with a pop-up allowing an email letter to be sent directly to each company.