May 4, 2017
Issue 181  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

Editor's Note

The evidence of the accelerating shift from coal to renewables continues to mount. Westpac, one of Australia’s largest banks, decided Adani’s Carmichael coal project wasn’t consistent with its new climate policy - infuriating the company, its lobby groups and strongest political supporters. In Europe, tougher new pollution limits will force utilities to either invest good money to clean them up or close them down by 2021. With the cost of renewables falling rapidly, odds are that it will be far better to use funds to build renewables than prop up old coal plants.

The Indian Government is pushing ahead to end coal imports this year by publicly-owned utilities - and before too long by privately operated power plants. The country’s power minister has also flagged an interest in developing offshore wind. While gas has long been touted as a ‘bridge’ between coal and renewables, the major Australian utility AGL this week bluntly argued it would skip gas and go straight from coal to wind and solar with storage.

Bob Burton

Features

Adani’s telling meltdown over Westpac’s new climate policy

With Westpac’s new climate policy ruling out supporting projects in the Galilee Basin, Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine has now been shunned by all four major Australian banks as well as a further 15 banks around the world, writes Bob Burton in EndCoal.

India's energy landscape is rapidly changing

India's switch away from new coal plants is happening so swiftly that researchers are having a tough time keeping up with it, writes Kavya Balaraman in Scientific American.

Campaigns

Westpac backs away from Adani’s Galilee Basin plans

After a three-year campaign, Westpac has become the last of Australia’s largest four banks to effectively exclude support for Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin. Westpac’s latest climate policy specifically states it will “limit lending to any new thermal coal mines or projects (including those of existing customers) to only existing coal producing basins and where the calorific value for that mine ranks in at least the top 15% globally.” The campaign – with major roles played by 350 Australia, Market Forces and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) – included protests at Westpac bank branches around the country and shareholder engagement. (Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Market Forces)

Tougher European plant pollution measures narrowly adopt

New European Union air pollution limits, which will apply to 280 power plants, were adopted by the narrowest of margins after a coalition of countries led by Germany and Poland sought to derail the proposed standards. A petition urging the adoption of the new standards attracted the signatures of 126,000 people and helped sway wavering countries. By 2021 all coal plants will have to comply with the tougher standards on the emission of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, fine particulate matter and, for the first time, mercury emissions. The new standards are likely to trigger a wave of coal plant closures across Europe as utilities invest in new renewables generation rather than upgrading old power stations. Estimates suggest the reduction in power plant pollution caused by the new standards will save more than 20,000 lives a year. (European Environmental Bureau, Climate Action Network Europe)

Top News

Adani could face multi-million dollar fines over coal port pollution: Data provided to the Queensland Department of Environmental and Heritage (DEH) reveals on March 30 water pollution from Adani’s Abbot Point Coal Terminal reached eight times authorised levels. Almost two weeks after the pollution, Adani publicly claimed that its authorised 100 milligrams a litre (mg/l) limit – which had temporarily been increased during Cyclone Debbie from the normal 30 mg/l – was “not exceeded.”  Adani could potentially face a fine of up to US$2.8 million if the breach is considered wilful or US$2 million if it was unintentional. (ABC News)

Govt says no penalty if coal plants miss pollution upgrade deadline: India’s Minister for Power, Piyush Goyal, has stated there will be no penalties for power companies which miss the December 2017 deadline to meet new standards introduced two years ago to cut emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and reduce water use. “Very few plants have even floated a tender that we need new technology — none of the plants have gone anywhere close to installation,” said Priyavrat Bhati from the Center for Science and Environment. Air pollution is estimated to kill 1.1 million people a year. (Financial Times)

Landowning company urges rejection of Philippines coal plant: A private company, the Ludo and Luym Corporation (LLC) has informed the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of Cebu City that they have not approved the use of their land for Ludo Power Corporation’s proposed 300 megawatt (MW) coal plant. LLC has urged the government agency to reject the proposed plant. In a letter to the EMB, LLC stockholders stated the land could only be used for “the pursuit of LLC’s legitimate business” and that as there has been no stockholders’ meeting since 2001, the use of it for the coal plant could not have been validly approved. (Sun Star)

Washington coal export terminal would increase cancer risk: The final environmental impact statement for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals in Washington state estimates residents living near the railway would face a 10 per cent increase in cancer risk due to exposure to coal dust from coal wagons. The proposed 40 million tonnes a year coal port, which has already been denied a key permit, would also increase traffic congestion and cause damage to wetlands.  (Oregon Public Broadcasting, Washington Post)

Public alarm at Goa port expansion plan: An estimated 1500 people turned out to protest against a proposal by JSW to double the volume of coal imported to 14 million tonnes a year through its two berths at Mormugao Port Trust (MPT). Public opposition to air pollution from the existing port operations has been intense with the MPT proposing coal imports could increase from the current 12 million tonnes a year to 51 million tonnes a year by 2030. Alarm has also been expressed at the impacts of dredging on local fish populations and the effect on Goa's dolphin-sighting tours. (Scroll, Daijiworld.com)

Villagers boycott selective consultation on Myanmar coal plant: Residents affected by the Tigyit power station, the country’s only coal plant, boycotted a hastily convened closed-door meeting to which only 70 people were invited. Residents from the 39 villages affected by the project fear the new government may be seeking to restart the plant, which was shut down in 2014 by the previous government after protests over pollution. (Burma News International, CoalSwarm)

Cirebon court decision appealed: The decision by a West Java civil court revoking the environmental permit for the 1000 megawatt (MW) Cirebon 2 Coal Fired Power Plant has been appealed to a higher court by the West Java Regional Government (Pemba). Pemba is appealing the decision on the grounds they and the proponents don’t believe they have violated the planning laws. Cirebon Energy stated if the appeal is not successful they are unsure how the project can proceed. (CNN Indonesia [Indonesian])

“The continuing determination of [Thai] government and energy planners to stick with plans for the Krabi province coal-fired power plant is now developing into a crisis. It is a self-made crisis. Even the most stubborn advocates must admit that plans for coal to make electricity in the South are out of date, out of touch and lacking reality,”

states an editorial in the Bangkok Post.

#Coal plant plans in #Thailand’s south “are out of date, out of touch and lacking reality” @BangkokPostNews #Krabi http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1239346/consider-the-alternatives

News

Australia: Southern Highlands landowners fear likely impact on aquifers from underground mine.

Botswana: Tax holiday granted in a bid to entice private developer to build 450 MW Sese plant.

Cambodia: GE wins contract as part of Toshiba’s construction of 135 MW plant near Sihanoukville.

India: NLC scraps 4000 MW Tamil Nadu plant, touts 2640 MW mine-mouth plant instead.

Philippines: Senate rejection of nomination of Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary alarms environmentalists.

South Africa: Groups warn agencies private plants will face legal challenge unless climate assessment completed.

US: Trump appoints renewable energy critic to head Department of Energy office promoting renewables.

“The notion that ultra-supercritical coal is clean is, frankly, a lie,”

Kobad Bhavnagri, the lead analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia told a conference in Melbourne.

“The notion that ultra-supercritical #coal is clean is, frankly, a lie” BNEF analyst Kobad Bhavnagri #pollution http://reneweconomy.com.au/lunar-right-go-crazy-over-genocidal-wind-turbines-and-solar-power-89735/

Companies + Markets

Trump’s Canadian timber levy triggers war on coal: The Trump Administration’s imposition of up to a 24 per cent tariff increase on timber imported from Canada has prompted the Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, to urge Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban US coal exports through the province’s ports. Facing a tight election contest next weekend, Clark has proposed a thermal coal export tax if Trudeau doesn’t impose a ban. British Columbia is a major timber exporter to the US while about 6 million tonnes of coal produced by Cloud Peak Energy and Lighthouse Resources is exported through the Port of Vancouver. (Bloomberg, Reuters)

Baseload gas will be bypassed in transition from coal, says Australian energy giant: A senior executive of Australia’s largest energy company, AGL, which has a portfolio of major coal and gas generation plants, believes the energy transition from coal plants will exclude baseload gas plants due to the low cost of renewables. “The energy transition we have all been anticipating will skip ‘big baseload gas’ as a major component of the NEM’s [National Electricity Market] baseload generation and instead largely be a case of moving from ‘big coal’ to ‘big renewables’,”  AGL’s Chief Financial Officer, Brett Redman, told a conference in Sydney. (RenewEconomy, AGL)

India aims for zero coal imports by public utilities: Ahead of a meeting with state ministers, India’s Secretary of Coal, Susheel Kumar, has re-iterated the central government aims to ensure no coal is imported by Indian public sector utilities in the current April to March 2017/18 financial year. Kumar said “and slowly we would convince the private sector” to abandon coal imports as well. The Minister of Power, Piyush Goyal, has also flagged interest in having NTPC – which generates about one-quarter of the country’s electricity – move into offshore wind. (Livemint, Livemint)

Indian steel utility flags new met coal mine to cut imports: The government-owned Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) is seeking to pursue the development of the Tasra mine to produce 20 million tonnes a year of coking coal as an alternative to increasing metallurgical coal imports. The project, which was first proposed in 2009, stalled due to refusal of some villagers to sell their land. The project also includes a proposed 300 MW power plant. (The Hindu)

Vietnam Gov’t presses coal and power companies to cut losses:  Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Tran Tuan Anh, has identified the National Coal and Mineral Industry Group (Vinacomin), and Electricity of Viet Nam (EVN) as two of the four government-owned companies which must submit plans to restructure their businesses over the 2017-2020 period to cut their huge losses. EVN has also been directed to increase power prices to reflect their true production costs in part to make it easier to attract investment in renewable power. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker, Vietnam currently has 34 coal units under construction and a further 54 have been proposed. (Viet Nam News, VietnamNet)

Bids received for huge Egyptian plant: The Egyptian Electricity Holding Company has received three bids from consortia seeking to be selected to seek finance and build a new 6000 MW coal plant at Hamrawein. The three are a Chinese consortium comprising Shanghai Electric, Dong Fang, Sewedy-Marubeni, a Japanese coalition comprising Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Sumitomo and a Saudi-Egyptian grouping of Apec-Orascom. However, considerable doubt remains about whether the project will proceed. In January the Ministry of Energy told the government it should be deferred as the country currently has about 4000 MW of excess capacity. (Daily News Egypt, CoalSwarm)

Resources

The Dying Springs of Chirimiri, Youtube, March 2017. (Video)

This 11-minute video documents the growing damage to vital water springs from coal mining at Chirimiri in Chhattisgarh state. Since the mine started in 1932 over 250 springs have been damaged. (An article on the issue is here.)

Inside Job: Big Polluters' lobbyists on the inside at the UNFCCC, Corporate Accountability International, May 2017. (Pdf)

This 16-page report profiles six major national and international business lobby groups with significant fossil fuel industry ties which are actively involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Strengthening Just Transition Policies in International Climate Governance, Stanley Foundation, May 2017. (Pdf)

This 16-page report, authored by a senior adviser to the International Trade Union Confederation, provides a brief overview of key issues in developing a just transition for fossil fuel producing regions and critical steps for better incorporating it into the implementation of the Paris Agreement.