May 18, 2017
Issue 183  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

Upheavals to coal plant plans in India and China continue to gather pace. In India, another solar power price record has coincided with the cancellation of proposed new coal plants and the scrapping of a major power purchase agreement in Odisha. In another state, a big new coal plant lays largely idle due to lack of demand; but imposing a huge cost on consumers under the terms of a generous power purchase agreement.

In China, new coal plant plans have been suspended in 28 out of 31 provinces. However, while the construction of coal plants is slowing in China, Chinese companies are pursuing them with zeal elsewhere around the world – especially though the government-supported Belt and Road Initiative.

In South Korea the newly-elected President has ordered the shutdown of old coal plants during June this year and for four months next year due to air pollution concerns. In Alberta, two coal plants are set to be closed by 2020, a decade before federal plans required. In Italy, a coal plant phase-out by 2025 or 2030 has been flagged as an option in the country’s national energy strategy.

Bob Burton

Features

China’s Belt and Road Initiative still pushing coal

China’s massive trade and international infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, is pushing numerous polluting coal power projects which will damage the health of local people and the climate, writes Feng Hao in China Dialogue.

Kenyan coal plant one of a wave of Chinese-backed power stations in Africa

The coal plant proposed to be built in Kenya near the World Heritage-listed town of Lamu is part of a trend of Chinese-backed coal power stations promoted in Africa, writes Jonathan W Rosen in National Geographic.

Insurers need to walk the walk on climate change

The coal industry can’t get its mines and power plants funded without insurance coverage but many companies in the insurance industry continue to enable climate-destroying coal projects, writes Peter Bosshard in Mongabay.

Campaigns

South Korea’s new President suspends use of eight old plants

Just five days after his election, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, announced that eight old coal-fired plants will be shut down during June as an emergency pollution control measure. Two other plants originally proposed to be included will be kept online due to high demand and lack of immediate alternatives. Next year all 10 plants, which have a combined capacity of about 3000 megawatts (MW), will be closed for four months from March. While the announcement has been welcomed by civil society groups, the outcome of Jae-in’s promised review of proposed plants and those currently under construction will largely determine whether coal generation will decline or not. (Korea Times, RenewEconomy)

Top News

China suspends plant approvals in 28 provinces: China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) will suspend approvals for new coal plants in 28 provinces. The NEA has classified 24 provinces as likely to experience severe overcapacity or major environmental impacts if new coal plants are approved. Project approvals were also suspended in a further four provinces which would experience significant but less extreme impacts if plants proceeded. The suspension of new projects comes as electricity demand growth slows, renewable generation increases and current plant utilisation rates continue to fall as plants currently under construction are commissioned. (EnergyDesk)

Coal plant cancellations accelerate in India: BGR Energy Systems has cancelled its proposed 1320 MW coal plant at Bhapur in Odisha. Kalinga Energy and Power has also advised the state government it has dropped its 1000 MW project in Sambalpur district which it had suspended in 2014 over delays in land acquisition. An anonymous state government official said the plants were cancelled due to problems getting coal allocations and a shift to increasingly cheaper renewables. The 2400 MW Kamakhyanagar power plant by the Odisha Thermal Power Corporation is also struggling to find a viable source of coal supply. (Business Standard, Business Standard)

Italy contemplates coal exit by 2025 to 2030: The National Energy Strategy drafted by Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development and the Environment suggests an exit from coal power could be achieved by 2025 or 2030. The strategy flags a coal phase-out could cost up to US$3.3 billion for the development of wind, solar and investments in energy efficiency and upgraded transmission infrastructure. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker Italy has 32 coal units operating which have a combined capacity of 9640 MW. (R.it [Italian])

Investigation launched into fudged data on NSW power plants: For over two decades the managers of the 2640 MW Bayswater power station in the NSW Hunter Valley directed staff to use blended low-sulphur coal in the one 660 MW unit which was monitored for pollution emissions. Unknown to regulators, the other three unmonitored units routinely breached pollution standards. In the wake of the revelations the NSW Environment Protection Authority has launched an investigation into whether selective blending applies at other plants in the state, while the Greens have called for an investigation into the possible under-payment of pollution fees. (Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Morning Herald)

Uproar over approval of mine in South African protected area: Members of parliament have challenged the decision by South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, to approve an underground coal mine in the Mabola protected environment, a critical water catchment area. The Indian company proposing the mine, Atha-Africa Ventures, is in a joint venture with Bashubile Trust, which includes two trustees who are reportedly President Zuma’s nephews. (BusinessLive)

Taiwan aims to slash coal power: Taiwan's Ministry of Economic Affairs new eight-year green energy plan foreshadows cutting coal's share of electricity generation from 45.4 per cent in 2016 to 30 per cent by 2025. The plan, developed to achieve the Tsai Administration’s goal of phasing out nuclear power by 2025, proposes increasing the share of electricity generated by renewables from 4.8 per cent in 2016 to 20 percent in 2025. It also proposes increasing the role for gas generation. (Taiwan News)

News

Canada: Legal appeal against Vancouver Fraser Port Authority permit for new coal terminal.

Mozambique: Vale’s Nacala coal export terminal commissioned to cater for coal from Moatize fields.

Pakistan: Government pressed to clear previously rejected imported coal plants.

US: St John’s plant in Florida set to close in early 2018, the seventh announced US closure in 2017.

US: BNSF railway company appeals against Washington state study finding that railed coal increases cancer risk.

Vietnam: POSCO cleared to build and operate 1200 MW Quynh Lap II plant in Nghe An province.

“Kemper [CCS plant] was likely to fail from its very inception … it has always been about unproven technology and a long-shot side bet on natural gas prices. The fall in natural gas prices merely made the consequences of a very bad decision even worse. Mississippi Power should bear the entire cost of that predictably bad decision,”

wrote Rich Sun, a former investment banker, on the US$7.2 billion Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage plant in Mississippi owned by a subsidiary of Southern Company.

Companies + Markets

Indian solar price drops 25 per cent in three months: Another solar power auction by the Solar Energy Corporation of India for the Bhadla Solar Park in Rajasthan has produced another record low price in India of 3.79 US cents per kilowatt hour, lower than the record set a few days earlier and down 25 per cent in the space of three months. The current solar tariff is substantially lower than imported coal power, new domestic coal plants and some operating plants using local coal. The rapid price fall is partly due to the declining costs of panels, capital and increased interest from global companies. (Bridge to India, Carbon Tracker)

Surplus Indian plant costs Maharashtra consumers dearly: Maharashtra state’s distribution company, Mahadiscom, will pay US$600m over four years under its power purchase agreement (PPA) with Rattan India for its 1200 MW plant at Amravati - despite needing power from it only occasionally. The plant, which was commissioned between 2013 and 2015, was approved at the height of India’s coal boom but is now largely surplus to requirement. It has been estimated the power supplied under the PPA costs about US$2.40 a kilowatt hour, almost 40 times the market rate. Without the plant, power in the state would be about one-tenth cheaper. (Climate Home)

Financial challenges for Indian coal plants grow: Facing a growing power surplus the Uttar Pradesh government has cancelled plans to finalise the purchase of 3800 MW of power from independent power producers. In August 2016, 18 companies – including Adani Power – were shortlisted to supply power over 15 years at an average of six US cents per kilowatt hour. As the price of renewables drops, the cost of financing riskier existing coal plants – which are experiencing falling utilisation levels – are likely to rise, warn researchers from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. (Financial Express, Livemint)

Canadian utility brings plant retirements ahead by decade: ATCO, a major Alberta utility, has flagged that it is likely to convert the Battle River and the Sheerness coal plants – which have a combined capacity of 1469 MW – by 2020 to gas, a decade ahead of the national 2030 deadline for the retirement of old coal plants. After 2022 coal plants are estimated to face a US$37 per tonne fee for carbon dioxide. (Calgary Herald)

Controversy rages over Eskom deals and appointment: Former South African Minister for Mines, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, alleges Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe and chair Ben Ngubane pressured him to terminate Glencore’s mining licence for the Optimum mine. He refused and two weeks later was sacked by President Zuma. Both Molefe and Ngubane reject Ramatlhodi's claim. Through pre-payment for coal Eskom subsequently helped finance a subsidiary the politically well-connected Gupta company Oakbay Resources, which bought the mine from Glencore’s subsidiary while in administration. Molefe resigned as Eskom CEO late last year and became an ANC MP. However, after public uproar over his pension payment, Molefe resigned as an MP and has been re-appointed as CEO by Eskom to the alarm of some ANC leaders. (amaBhungane, Reuters)

Resources

Mining rehabilitation security deposits, Audit Office of New South Wales, May 2017.

The audit finds security deposits in NSW are insufficient to cover current likely rehabilitation costs especially in the absence of detailed closure plans and independent verification of mining company claims.

Future Hazards: Will the Adani Carmichael Coal Mine Meet Mining Industry Rehabilitation Standards?, Lock the Gate Alliance, May 2017. (Pdf)

This 10-page report reveals how Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine would fail to meet even common mining industry rehabilitation standards and leave large areas un-rehabilitated with permanent impacts on groundwater and streams draining the proposed mining areas.

‘Everything you think you know about coal in China is wrong’, Center for American Progress, May 2107.

This detailed article compares the data on the US and Chinese coal plant fleets and finds China is rapidly shutting its older, less-efficient plants and is set to over-deliver on its Paris Agreement climate commitments.

Who owns the world’s coal?,  InfluenceMap, May 16, 2017.

This 14-page report details the ownership chains of world thermal coal - from the mines to the shareholders associated with 117 stock exchange-listed thermal coal producers and owners.

Underwriting Climate Chaos: Insurance Companies, the Coal Industry and Climate Change, Civil Society Briefing, April 2017. (Pdf)

This 18-page briefing paper details the major insurance companies involved in supporting coal projects.

Hungry Coal: Coal Mining and Food Security in Indonesia, JATAM and Waterkeeper Alliance, May 2017. (Pdf) (Bahasa version here.)

This 47-page report investigates the risk posed to Indonesia’s rice production for its rapidly growing population by the allocation of millions of hectares of land to coal mining - and the resulting pollution and lack of rehabilitation.