April 20, 2017
Issue 179  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

A regional administrative court ruling revoking the environmental permit for the Cirebon 2 coal plant in Indonesia is the highlight of the week and recognition that local communities have the right to be heard. It is not always the case, as farmers, fisherpeople and local communities in Malaysia, India and Australia confront the demand for land and water by coal mines and power stations.

Growing public revulsion of deadly health impacts caused by air pollution and coal power are increasingly likely to constrain existing and proposed plants. In South Korea the two leading contenders in the race to be elected President are both vowing to reduce the role of coal power and boost renewables.

Unfortunately not all political leaders want to reduce coal pollution and expand renewables. In the US the Trump administration has just stalled the implementation of new standards to cut toxic water emissions from coal plants and is initiating a review aimed at shoring up increasingly uneconomic coal plants. Poland, which has already enacted laws penalising wind farms in order to help coal power, is losing out on financial support for a transition to clean energy. As the global shift to renewable power accelerates, the efforts of holdout governments look increasingly desperate and doomed.

Bob Burton

Features

A Queensland farmer finds common cause over coal with Adani’s Indian neighbours

“When I was in India it became very clear to me how dangerously powerful Adani is there and how the company uses its influence to its own advantage. We see it in Australia too,” writes Bruce Currie in the North Queensland Register. Currie, a western Queensland farmer confronting Adani’s Carmichael coal project in Australia, travelled to India to meet others with first-hand experience of the company.

How an Indian government-owned company takes land for coal

The Indian Government’s expansion of coal mining to cater for new power plants, such as a new mine in the Pakri-Barwadih coal block to cater for NTPC’s North Karanpura Thermal Power Station, comes at a heavy cost for local landowners, writes Sneh Singh in Governance Now.

Campaigns

Indonesian court overturns key Cirebon 2 permit

The Bandung Administrative Court has upheld a legal challenge by communities affected by the proposed 1000 megawatt (MW) expansion of the Cirebon plant in West Java. The communities argued the environmental permit issued by the West Java Provincial Government was in breach of several planning and environmental laws. The day before the court decision the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) signed a US$1.74 billion loan agreement for the project, despite having been informed about the court date and the possibility that the project’s environmental permit would be cancelled. Korea Eximbank and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance also signed on. (EndCoal, MarketForces)

Top News

Contenders for South Korea’s Presidency vow to cut coal: In response to growing public concern about air pollution, the two leading contenders at the May 9 election for South Korea’s Presidency are committed to cutting the use of coal and nuclear power and expanding renewable energy capacity. South Korea, the world’s fourth largest thermal coal importer, purchased 98 million tonnes from the global market in 2016. (Reuters)

Indian court set to charge former minister over 1999 coal block allocation: The Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s anti-corruption agency, is set to charge the former Minister for Coal, Dilip Ray, over his 1999 decision to allocate the Brahmadiha coal block in Jharkhand to Castron Technologies. Ray, who is currently a member of the Odisha state parliament representing Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, is set to be charged – along with two former civil servants and Castron Technologies officials – at an April 26 hearing. (Economic Times)

Trump Administration stays rule on coal plant water pollution: In response to lobbying by a coalition of power industry lobby groups, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, has stayed the implementation of Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) designed to cut mercury, lead and arsenic emissions from coal plants. The ELG standards, which were introduced in November 2015 by the Obama Administration, required utilities to demonstrate between 2018 and 2023 that they were using the best available technology to cut toxic metal emissions in wastewater. In 2015 the EPA estimated the standards would cut toxic metal and other pollutants by 635,000 tonnes and cut water use by 215 billion litres. (Washington Post, Sierra Club)

Taiwan Government’s plan won’t clean air, says coalition: A coalition of health and community groups has rejected as grossly inadequate a government plan to improve air quality by focussing largely on the transportation sector and small scale coal-burning boilers - while doing nothing to cut coal power generation. “By permitting bituminous coal plants to continue to operate, this is a policy doomed to fail,” said Professor Zhan Zhang-quan of National Taiwan University College of Public Health. Citizens groups also fear Formosa Plastic Group’s Naptha Plant at Yunlin, which is powered by a coal plant, may be granted another licence extension. (Taipei Times, The NewsLens)

Medical groups warn Turkish air already too polluted to add coal: The Turkish Thoracic Society, which promotes improved lung health, estimates air pollution caused the premature deaths of 29,000 people in Turkey last year. The society warns air pollution levels are already between two and four times higher than World Health Organisation recommended limits in five provinces in which major new coal plants have been proposed. Over 66,800 MW of new coal plants have been proposed in Turkey. (Hurriyet Daily News, Global Coal Plant Tracker)

Malaysian landowners arrested for protests over land: Seven landowners have been arrested after objecting to the use of their land and for damage done to their crops by Sarawak Energy. The company has proposed a 600 MW Balingian coal plant. The landowners say a request to Sarawak Energy for compensation was rejected on the grounds that they claimed the land belonged to the state. The plant, which is currently under construction, is being built by the Chinese company, Shanghai Electric Group. (Borneo Post, CoalSwarm)

News

Australia: Barrage of pro-Adani Tweets using same messages tracked back to three accounts in India.

China: Ban on coal trucks at Tianjin port brought forward from July to end of April.

India: Andhra Pradesh Minister for Energy puts new coal projects on hold due to overcapacity.

Netherlands: Crowdfunding campaign has raised US$5.4 million to buy and shut Amsterdam coal plant.

UK: Grant of US$7.5m awarded to UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre to promote CCS.

US: Estimates of coal dust emissions from proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal in Washington state challenged.

Vietnam: Japanese company J-Power proposes new 4400 MW coal plant at Dung Quat Economic Zone.

Companies + Markets

Trump administration seeks review of renewables’ challenge to coal: The Secretary of Energy in the Trump Administration, Rick Perry, has ordered a review of the extent to which federal government regulations, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” In his note to his chief of staff, Perry mentioned the US as having abundant energy resources including coal and gas but omitted any mention of solar and wind resources. Perry directed the review be completed with 60 days. (Bloomberg, ThinkProgress)

Poland’s anti-wind moves come with a cost: The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) cut funding of Poland’s wind sector from US$268 million in 2015 to US$107 million in 2016 due to a July 2016 law imposing a higher property tax on wind farm owners.  New wind farms within 1.5 to 2 kilometres of houses and protected natural sites are also banned. Despite the rapidly falling costs of renewables, the Polish Government is determined to support the ailing coal mining and power sector. (Reuters)

Banks to review Adani and Tata after Supreme Court ruling: Led by the State Bank of India, a group of lenders to Adani Power and Tata Power is set to review the companies’ power sector exposure after the Supreme Court rejected a claim they were entitled to be paid an increased tariff because of Indonesian Government changes to coal export pricing. The ruling will increase losses on each of the companies’ plants at Mundra in Gujarat. The Supreme Court verdict, an anonymous head of a public sector bank said, “might add to the strain on balance sheets.” (Business Standard)

India ponders export plans anew: Coal India’s rapidly increasing pithead stockpiles, which stood at 69 million tonnes at the end of March, has spurred renewed Indian Government interest in accelerating displacing imported coal and exploring export options. In 2016 proposals to export coal to neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh attracted little interest. The Minister for Coal, Piyush Goyal, acknowledged that to export coal “we have to address the issue of quality . . . as pollution generated from Indian coal is higher.” Only about 10 per cent of Coal India’s almost 600 million tonnes production is currently washed to reduce its high ash content. (Mining Weekly)

Low prices renew China’s interest in coal-to-oil projects: China’s coal-to-oil and petro-chemicals projects are showing increasing signs of life in part due to lower coal prices and deals to allocate water rights from the Yellow River to the water-intensive and polluting projects. In January China’s President, Xi Jinping, endorsed a major coal-to-oil plant in Ningxia, a desert region with some of the world’s richest coal reserves. The head of Shenhua’s coal-to-oil division said the company is keen to pursue projects overseas where there are low-cost coal resources through China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic and strategic initiative. (Financial Times [paywall])

Resources

“Strategic siting and regional grid interconnections key to low-carbon futures in African countries”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 11, 2017. (Abstract) (A media release on the study is here.)

This paper finds significant cost-effective wind and solar potential across Africa, especially if sited near international transmission interconnections which could help lower overall system costs and reduce reliance on conventional generation and drought-vulnerable hydro projects.

“Most coal plants in the United States were built before 1990”, Energy Information Administration, April 17, 2017.

This short briefing note provides a useful breakdown – with accompanying charts – of the remaining US fleet of coal plants, their age, location and the historical coal generation since 2005.