March 2, 2017
Issue 172  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

A major mine proposed in the New South Wales Hunter Valley has been rejected again, in large part because of strong opposition by the horsebreeding industry. In Thailand, the military-backed government has finally cancelled the environmental assessment of the proposed 800 megawatt (MW) Krabi plant.

As the US$7.1 billion Kemper Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) project in Mississippi inches towards commissioning, the company building the plant has revealed it is not currently financially viable to run it on coal. The Kemper plant and another in Indiana demonstrate coal gasification power projects are a failed experiment in making new coal plants clean or cheap. Despite the major financial problems with CCS projects, some supporters are seeking to spin them as a cheaper source of power generation than renewables despite evidence to the contrary.

The results of India’s auction of 1000 MW of wind capacity highlights the costs of wind generation are falling faster than most expected and underscores the speed with which clean energy can be substituted for dirty coal plants. It is just such a transition which is accelerating in China.

Bob Burton

Features

Once touted as the fresh face of coal, experimental US plants flop

The two new integrated gasification combined cycle coal plants in the US - Edwardsport and Kemper – are “failed experiments” that are unreliable and vastly more expensive than originally envisaged, writes David Schlissel from the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis.

Spinning Carbon Capture and Storage as cheaper than renewables

Supporters of carbon capture and storage (CCS) plants on coal power stations are audaciously seeking to sell the story they are cheaper than renewables – despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, writes Bob Burton in EndCoal.

It’s not too late to stop the Rampal coal plant and protect Sundarbans

If India and Sri Lanka can scrap controversial coal plant projects there is no reason why Bangladesh can’t cancel the Rampal plant and other harmful activities in and around the Sundarbans World Heritage Site, writes Anu Muhammad, Professor of Economics at Jahangirnagar University, in the Daily Star.

Landowners resist dispossession for Pakistan coal project

For over 100 days landowners from a dozen villages have conducted a sit-in protest against moves to forcibly remove them from traditional lands for the construction of a proposed coal mine and wastewater dam in the Thar desert to fuel a huge coal power plant, writes Zofeen Ebrahim in the Guardian.

Campaigns

Anglo American’s proposed NSW mine expansion rejected again

The New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has once again rejected Anglo American’s proposed expansion of its Drayton South mine on the grounds it would cause air quality and blast noise effects which couldn’t be mitigated and “would have unacceptable negative economic and social impacts in the locality.” The PAC concluded the mine expansion - which was strongly opposed by landowner and an internationally renowned horsebreeding industry - was “not in the public interest.” Versions of the mine expansion proposal have been rejected twice by PAC and twice on appeal. Landowners are pressing the state government to permanently exclude the area from further mining. (Newcastle Herald, Planning Assessment Commission)

Top News

China’s coal use keeps falling: Chinese coal consumption fell by 1.3 per cent in 2016 when adjusted for energy content - or 4.7 per cent in absolute volume. The continued decline of coal suggests greenhouse gas emissions from China’s energy sector are likely to fall in 2017 by one per cent, the third year of decline. Coal’s share of electricity generation also declined as solar capacity increased by 81.6 per cent to 77,000 MW and wind capacity grew by 13.2 per cent to 149,000 MW. On current trends the government’s 2020 solar target is likely to be met by 2018 and the peak in its greenhouse gas emissions occur years ahead of schedule. (IEEFA, Energydesk)

Faced with more protests, Thai Government directs new Krabi process: The Thai Government has formally directed the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to cancel the Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed 800 MW Krabi coal project. While the government agreed late last month to scrap the existing EGAT study in order to end a protest in front of Government House, the government appeared to backtrack - until community groups vowed to restart the protest. (Bangkok Post, Khaosed)

National protests against proposed Bangladeshi plant: Protests have been held in Dhaka and other cities calling on the Bangladeshi Government to cancel the proposed 1320 megawatt (MW) Rampal coal plant near the Sundarbans World Heritage site. The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports will unveil an alternative energy master plan on March 18 with mass rallies scheduled to be held in the first week of April. (Dhaka Tribune,  Daily Star)

Mine pollution damages Australian World Heritage site: Researchers from Western Sydney University have found salt levels at 10 times the background levels downstream from the discharge point of Centennial Coal’s Clarence Colliery in the Blue Mountains. They also found elevated nickel and zinc levels. The pollution extended 22 kilometres downstream from the mine discharge point in the headwaters of the Wollangambe River to World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park. (ABC)

Kenyan regulator approves country’s first coal plant: Kenya’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has rejected community concerns about pollution and impacts on the historic World Heritage listed town of Lamu and approved the country’s first coal plant. Save Lamu and the legal support group Natural Justice had also challenged the economic viability of the 1050 MW project, which also requires the construction of major port infrastructure. The plant has yet to be granted a generation licence. (Daily Nation, Daily Nation)

Trump Administration aims to slash EPA: The Trump Administration is reportedly proposing deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget which is likely to particularly affect legal enforcement and climate programs. The newly confirmed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has had a long and close relationship with fossil fuel industries, is embroiled in controversy as records reveal he used private email addresses for work-related activities while attorney general of Oklahoma. (Associated Press, Bloomberg)

US coal companies revealed as major Trump and Republican donors: When President Donald Trump signed an executive order repealing the Obama Administration’s Stream Protection Rule the CEO of Murray Energy, Robert Murray was there to witness it. In the 2016 election cycle Murray Energy donated US$1.5 million to the Trump campaign and other Republican-aligned groups. Alliance Resource Partners contributed US$115,000 and its employees a further US$3.4 million while political action groups of Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Patriot Coal all contributed smaller amounts. (Open Secrets)

News

Australia: Chair of coal lobby group appointed as a director of the national public broadcaster.

Bosnia: Mine landslide forces evacuation of 150 residents and is likely to render two villages uninhabitable.

Indonesia: Japanese and Singaporean banks agree to fund 2000 MW Tanjung Jati B 2 coal expansion.

India: Ministry of Environment experts worried about impact of coal barges on endangered Gangetic dolphin.

Jamaica: Over 21,000 sign petition opposing 1000 MW coal station proposed for bauxite plant.

Pakistan: Coal dumps near Karachi residential area prompt complaints about health impacts.

Spain: Thermal coal use fell by 23 per cent in 2016 as retirement of old plants gathers pace.

Sweden: Swedish Energy Agency unveils project to investigate using hydrogen instead of coal and coke for steel production.

US: Billionaire who owned company responsible for Sago mine disaster in West Virginia, which killed 12, appointed as Trump’s Secretary of Commerce.

Companies + Markets

US CCS plant may not be viable due to low gas prices: A revised economic analysis of the 582 MW Kemper lignite-fired CCS project has revealed the plant is now only considered viable in three of the nine scenarios tested. All three scenarios require high natural gas costs with the company telling investors it estimated a gas cost of US$5 per million British thermal units in 2020. However, the US Energy Information Administration estimates gas may not rise to that price until 2030. Uncertainty surrounds whether the plant, which has cost US$7.1 billion and is slated to be commissioned in mid-March, will run on lignite or solely on gas. (MississippiWatchdog.org, Climate Investigations Center)

India’s wind auction reveals new challenge to coal: The Solar Energy Corporation of India’s tender for 1000 MW of wind capacity has resulted in a historic low price of US¢ 5.2/kWh, just marginally higher than the US¢ 4.9/kWh winning bid in a recent solar auction. In 2018 the Indian Government plans to auction a further 4000 MW of wind capacity. (Economic Times, Bridge to India)

India presses for urgent Mozambique mine restart: India’s Ministry of Coal has warned International Coal Ventures Limited (ICVL) any further delay in beginning operations at overseas coal mines was “unacceptable”. The ministry has urged ICVL – which is jointly owned by public sector agencies – to "waste no further time" in restarting production at the Benga coal block as India needs increased access to metallurgical coal. The Government of Mozambique has also commissioned a new coal dock at Maputo to cater for a new power station and is supportive of another coal terminal proposed by Swaziland and South African companies to export up to 6 million tonnes per annum to India. (Mining Weekly, Climate Home)

Indonesia plans on directly awarding power projects: Indonesia’s government-owned power company Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) has signalled it will not allocate new coal power projects by tender but by directly allocating projects. PLN plans to finalise its electricity procurement business plan for 2017-2026 this week and is looking to award 5000 MW of mine-mouth plants in Sumatra and Kalimantan. (Jakarta Post)

Power glut hits Russian coal plants: Privately-owned coal plants operating with Capacity Supply Agreements have utilisation rates as low as 12 per cent due, in part, to a glut of between 20,000 and 50,000 MW of capacity as a result of overestimated demand. Gas and coal plants across the country ran at just 46.7 per cent utilisation during 2016. While generators are currently financially insulated under the ten-year agreements, they face an uncertain future when they begin to expire in 2018. (Energo - CEE/FSU Power [paywall])

Dozen Vietnamese coal plants struggling for finance: As many as 12 major coal plant projects are struggling to obtain finance as the Vietnamese Government seeks to curb public debt and require proponents to obtain private finance such as from export credit agencies in South Korea, China and Japan. The government is refusing to guarantee more than 30% of the cost of power purchase agreements with the government-owned utility EVN. “If these deals don’t make progress in 2017, it’s difficult to see how the export credit agencies can commit to providing significant funding after that,” one financial advisor told IJGlobal. (IJGlobal [paywall])

Resources

Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016, Yale Program on Climate Communication, 2017.

This website provides a detailed mapping tool of the US using opinion polling results on attitudes to global warming and appropriate policy responses to it. Polling data can be plotted from the state level down to countries and congressional districts.

“What’s At Stake? Trump’s Potential Anti-Environmental, Anti-Public Health Orders By the Numbers,” Sierra Club, February 2017.

This article provides some useful background information on the potential impacts of key US government regulations affecting the coal industry which are likely to be targeted by executive orders issued by President Trump.

Global Solar Atlas, World Bank Group, February 2017.

This online mapping tool provides high-resolution maps of solar resource and solar power potential to be downloaded for over 140 countries and selected regions.