June 22, 2017
Issue 188  |  View Past Issues
CoalWire

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The latest overview of energy sector trends by Bloomberg New Energy Finance points to the rapid ascendency of renewables and a decline in coal power generation. While encouraging, this still falls well short of limiting the global temperature increase 1.5 to 2 degrees as agreed to in the Paris Agreement. Achieving the Paris Agreement goal requires an even faster shift in financial support away from coal plants to renewables.

The energy sector strategy adopted by the board of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) reflects the tensions between the rise of clean energy and countries like Australia determined to have the bank create new markets for coal exports. While AIIB’s energy strategy keeps the door open to funding coal in some circumstances, senior bank officials are adamant the bank will not cross the threshold. Which path AIIB follows will be critical not only for air quality in Southeast Asia but for reaching the Paris Agreement goals.

Across the Pacific the CEOs of global insurance companies were put on notice that the time has come for them to part ways with insuring and investing in coal mining and power companies. Without insurance, new coal projects simply can’t proceed.

Bob Burton

Features

How much does an ultra-supercritical coal plant really reduce air pollution?

Why are the coal industry and its advocates always going on about ultra-supercritical coal plants and not about emissions regulation? The reason is that ultra-supercritical coal plants are usually more profitable; reducing air pollution impacts, however, still depends entirely on strict pollution control regulations, writes Lauri Myllyvirta from Greenpeace East Asia in EndCoal.

Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank's opportunity to shine

The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank shouldn’t invest any of its US$100 billion fund in coal projects, but instead should focus on renewable energy to set Southeast Asia’s economies on a truly sustainable path, writes Jay Vontobel from Vietnam Holding, one of Vietnam's largest asset managers, in Korea Times.

Solar power will kill coal faster than you think

Solar power will push coal plants out of the electricity market far faster than previously estimated with 369 gigawatts of projects standing to be cancelled, write Jess Shankleman and Hayley Warren from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Top News

AIIB hedges bets on coal but President speaks out: The board of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) adopted an Energy Sector Strategy which was largely the same as the earlier draft that provided loopholes for coal plants. The special treatment for coal drew criticism from NGOs, which had written to the Board of Governors urging it to rule out funding for fossil fuel projects. At the meeting, AIIB President Jin Liqun said that “there are no coal projects in our pipeline, and we will not consider any proposals if we are concerned about their environmental and reputational impact.” (Manila Bulletin, RenewEconomy)

Insurance CEOs feel the heat over coal: A global gathering of insurance industry CEOs in San Francisco was met by protesters urging companies to stop insuring coal companies and to divest from the industry. The Unfriend Coal coalition has written to the world’s leading 25 insurance companies requesting they stop insuring companies which get 30 per cent of their revenues or power generation from coal; produce, trade or consume over 18.1 million tonnes of coal annually; or plan investments in new coal mines, power plants or infrastructure. The letter also asks that companies rule out insuring Adani’s Carmichael coal project. (Unfriend Coal, Unfriend Coal)

Kenya’s Environment Secretary opposes Lamu plant: Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary, Judi Wakhungu, said the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is opposed to the proposed 1050 megawatt (MW) Lamu coal plant as it would damage the environment and public health. “The Ministry of Environment is quite clear that there is no clean coal; coal is dirty, there is nothing like clean coal,” she said. (KDRTV)

NGO’s demand air pollution compliance audit: A coalition of 63 NGOs has urged India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to release an audit of all proposed plants commissioned since January 1, 2017, indicating whether the plants comply with the country’s new pollution control regulations and water use standards. The standards were made legally binding in December 2015. The NGOs are alarmed by media reports that the MoEFCC and the Central Electricity Authority are proposing to extend the compliance deadline for pre-2017 plants from December 2017 by up to five years. The NGOs also want details released of which of the existing plants will comply with the December deadline. (Outlook India)

Zuma seeks to block “state capture” investigation: South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has filed legal action seeking to block the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into “state capture,” which the former Public Protector ordered him to initiate. The commission was recommended to investigate allegations that Zuma breached the government’s code of ethics over a coal deal Eskom and ministers entered into with the Gupta family, which has a business relationship with the President’s son. The Guptas and Zuma reject the allegations. The current Public Protector will oppose Zuma’s legal action. A three-day hearing has been set for October. (Bloomberg, EWN)

Prison sentence sought for US “clean coal” fraud: Federal US prosecutors are seeking a jail sentence, US$75,000 fine and probation for a 71-year-old businessman, Michael J. Ruffatto, who pleaded guilty to defrauding the government of US$5.7 million allocated for carbon capture and storage research. According to court documents,  Ruffatto used – over 20 years – federal grants and Wyoming tax breaks to fund jewellery purchases, foreign travel and a home in Colorado. Meanwhile, at the Two Elk energy site in Wyoming little work beyond the construction of some concrete slabs was undertaken. (Caspar Star Tribune)

“Coal’s competitive advantage is fast evaporating. It cannot compete with renewables on cost, and storage and smart management of the grid have made the need for new baseload redundant. Coal is yesterday’s technology – the only thing new coal has going for it is inertia,”

said Kobad Bhavnagri from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

News

Australia: New Hope Corporation seeks judicial review of Land Court recommendation against New Acland mine expansion.

Europe: New head of Eurelectric lobby group says renewables are becoming the “cheapest and most convenient way of producing electricity.”

India: Reserve Bank of India directs start of insolvency proceedings against private power producer Lanco Infratech.

India: Fire in Jahria coalfields forces permanent closure of 41-kilometre section of railway.

India: More protected forest land allocated to Adani Power for coal ash processing plant.

India: Protests erupt against pollution from proposed Cheyyur coal conveyor belt across farmlands.

Oman: Oman Power and Water Procurement Company considers new 1500-2000 MW plant, potentially reviving scrapped Duqm project.

Thailand: EGAT backs transmission link to Cambodia to help proposed Koh Kong coal plant.

Companies + Markets

Transition away from coal unstoppable, says BNEF: In its New Energy Outlook 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates the rise of renewables is now “unstoppable” with the price of solar power set to fall by 66 per cent by 2040. BNEF estimates solar is already as cheap, if not cheaper, than coal in Germany, Australia, the US, Spain and Italy. It projects that coal use will peak globally by 2026 with a fall in consumption of 15 per cent by 2040. BNEF estimates a drop in coal use of 87 per cent in Europe by 2040 and 45 per cent in the US over the same period. (BNEF)

Major Australian utility ridicules government push for new coal plants: The day after Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backed a Minerals Council of Australia push for new “continuous power sources” and expressed support for new coal plants, the CEO of AGL Energy, Andrew Vesey, dismissed coal as too expensive. “What’s the new baseload for us? It’s going to be large-scale renewables” backed up with gas until the cost of batteries falls, said Vesey. AGL Energy owns three large coal plants with a combined capacity of 6850 MW. (RenewEconomy, RenewEconomy)

Pakistan Government plans study to revive long-dead project: The Pakistan Government has commissioned a feasibility study into the possible revival of the proposed Keti Bandar coal plant, which was abandoned in 1997. Seeking to ameliorate a power shortage, the government, which faces a general election early in 2018, has suggested the project could attract Chinese backing. The study will investigate the viability of a 1320 MW plant with potential to expand to 10,000 MW, a 450-kilometre railway line to the Thar coalfield, and port infrastructure. (Economic Times, CoalSwarm)

Analyst downgrades Coal India as renewables rise: Goldman Sachs has downgraded Coal India’s shares to “sell” as the majority public-owned company faces higher wages, falling coal quality and the prospect that regulated prices won’t increase due to weak power demand. In a briefing note the firm argued the growth of renewables and the government’s determination to keep power prices low will crimp future demand growth. (Bloomberg)

CCS not viable for coal, says former manager: The former commercial manager with the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Co-operative Research Centre, David Hilditch, argued the technology will never be viable on coal plants. Hilditch said economic modelling by the Australian centre, which has worked on 30 CCS projects around the world, indicated the technology faces prohibitive costs. “The cost would be the equivalent of two coal-fired power plants because of the energy required to capture the CO2, compress the CO2 and deliver the CO2 to the storage site,” he said. However, Hilditch said the technology has potential in the oil and gas industry. (ABC News)

Bank lending for coal minng and coal power continues: A review conducted by four environmental groups finds that lending by 37 major banks to coal mines declined in 2016 while lending to coal-fired power plants increased. Over the past three years, a total of US$57.92 billion was provided for coal mining and US$74.71 billion was provided for coal plants. In 2016, four Chinese banks were the largest lenders to coal mines, while three Chinese banks and JPMorgan Chase were the largest lenders to coal plants. (Guardian, RAN)
 

Resources

Steeling the Future - The truth behind Australian metallurgical coal exports, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, July 2017. (Pdf)

This 22-page report investigates the role Australia’s metallurgical coal exports have played in the increasing global use of the blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace method of steel production. This method of producing steel produces more greenhouse gases per unit of output than all other processes.

Too Good to be True: The Risks of Public Investment in Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Western Organization of Resource Councils, June 2017.

This 40-page report finds US taxpayer support for CCS projects is neither effective nor economic in combatting the carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.

Banking on Climate Change: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2017, Rainforest Action Network,  BankTrack, Sierra Club, and Oil Change International, June 2017. (Pdf)

This 72-page report reviews the 2014-16 lending for extreme energy projects, including coal, by 37 global banks finding Chinese banks, Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan Chase are the worst performers.