April 27, 2017
Issue #180  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Signs of the accelerating transition away from coal power abound: The UK’s grid was coal-free for a day, the US state of New Mexico plans being coal free by 2031, Coal India slashed its 2018 production target, India seeks to export its expertise in renewables to Indonesia, the World Bank President says new coal plants in key Asian countries need to be avoided and the private Canadian utility TransAlta accounced the closure of its coal plants by 2023, six years ahead of a federal deadline.

Elsewhere, movement away from coal power is being slowed by the coal lobby wielding formidable residual power.

In South Africa, Eskom – which is mired in scandals over coal contracts and a payout for a former CEO – has been attempting to slow the shift to renewables. In Europe, Germany and Poland are attempting to block the adoption of new pollution standards for coal plants, while in South Korea the energy ministry is attempting to sneak through approval for a proposed coal plant before a new anti-coal President is elected.

Pollution from coal mining and plants has a way of rebounding on its creators. In India, a new coal plant recently opened by Prime Minister Modi has been revealed to have fudged pollution data and not installed necessary pollution control equipment. In Myanmar, a protest against coal mine pollution by thousands of villagers has resulted in the mining company shutting the mine at the end of the month.

Bob Burton


Proposed new US coal terminal is a road to nowhere

The release later this week of the final environmental impact statement by Millennium Bulk Terminals on its proposed coal terminal in Washington state is unlikely to acknowledge the economic prospects for West Coast coal exports have collapsed, writes Clark Williams-Derry from the Sightline Institute in Seattle Times.

Eskom’s anti-renewables rhetoric no substitute for a just transition for coal workers

Given the looming closures of old coal power stations, the National Union of Minerworkers should engage in designing a just transition away from coal rather than embracing Eskom’s strategy of trying to blame and block the rise of renewables, writes Jeff Rudin, from the Alternative Information & Development Centre in BusinessDay.

Top News

After big protest by villagers Myanmar mining agrees to close mine: Following a demonstration by an estimated 4000 villagers led by Bhuddist monks, the operators of a coal mine near Mong Kung in Shan State have agreed to cease operations at the end of the month. The mine, which was approved in 2014 during the military regime, restarted earlier this year after being suspended following earlier protests against the threat the project posed to 810 hectares of farmland and forests. (Burma News International)

UK goes without coal for a day: In a milestone in the transition away from coal the UK went for 24 hours without coal power generation for the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The previous record was 19 hours of coal-free generation in May 2016. National Grid – which manages the national electricity system – expects more coal-free periods over summer and longer coal-free periods of generation over the next two to three years. (Guardian, RenewEconomy)

Sky-high pollution from new plant opened by Modi: Three new 660 megawatt (MW) units at the 2600 MW Koradi plant, which were opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14, exceeded sulphur dioxide pollution limits set by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change by over five times. Data supplied by Maharashtra State Power Generation Company to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for the units initially claimed the plants met standards even though they have not been fitted with flue gas desulphurisation units. The discrepancy, which was revealed by a local activist, prompted Modi to demand an investigation. However, the MPCB has taken no enforcement action. (Times of India, Times of India)

Ex-head of India’s anti-corruption agency under investigation: Ranjit Sinha, the former head of India’s anti-corruption agency the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), is to be investigated for seeking “to scuttle enquiries, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the CBI in the coal block allocation cases.” The CBI was directed by the Supreme Court to establish a panel to investigate prima facie evidence of misconduct by Sinha, including privately meeting those under investigation in coal allocation cases. CBI has filed a ‘first incident report’ with the court, which is necessary before charges can be considered. (Times of India)

As South Korean election upheaval nears, Ministry quietly approves plant: Residents and environmentalists have called for an investigation into the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy secretly approving the Dangjin Eco Power plant which comprises two of four proposed coal units leading Presidential campaigners have vowed to cancel. The plant, which has been strongly resisted on pollution grounds, has not yet been approved by the Minister. The election for the President will occur on May 9, after the Constitutional Court upheld the impeachment of the scandal-plagued President Park Geun-hye in March. (Korea Expose)

Decision imminent on Europe’s proposed new pollution limits: Over 100,000 people have signed a petition calling on European Union states to reject pressure from Germany and Poland to weaken proposed pollution limits on large combustion plants at an April 28 meeting. The proposed limits are designed to reduce thousands of premature deaths and respiratory problems caused by nitrogen oxide emissions, which is a major contributor to air pollution. (European Environmental Bureau)

Eskom scandals escalate over Gupta coal deals: The South African Treasury is demanding Eskom’s pre-payment of US$50.5 million rand to Tegeta Exploration and Resources for coal for the Arnot power station be converted to a loan, with interest payable either by the mining company or Eskom officials involved in the deal. A draft Treasury report into Eskom coal deals found in August 2016 Eskom awarded a coal contract to Tegeta Resources without tender. President Zuma’s son owns a 12.8 per stake in Tegeta Resources with controversial Gupta family members owning 36 per cent of the company. (Business Day, amaBhungane)

“The incentives are clear that moving towards solar is better than continuing with the building of coal plants. So we need to find ways of accelerating that process,”

said World Bank President Jim Young Kim, identifying China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam as critical countries the bank would focus on.

#WorldBank Pres. says “moving towards #solar is better than continuing with the building of #coal plants” #climate http://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/india-shows-path-for-cheaper-solar-energy-world-bank/58291824


China: Growing wind and solar curtailment as grid management fails to keep pace and prioritise renewables.

India: Fire destroys coal conveyer system at recently commissioned 1980 MW Talwandi Sabo plant.

Portugal: Two killed and two injured in explosion on coal ship from US.

Senegal: African Development Bank concedes complaints over 125 MW plant under construction need investigation.

South Africa: Minister rejects US$2.3 million golden handshake for ex-Eskom CEO and now ANC MP.

UK: Protesters shut down Ffos-y-Fran mine in Wales which supplies Aberthaw power station.

US: Federal court allows port developer to challenge Oakland City Council ban on coal exports.

US: Pennsylvania Republicans push bill to nullify legal challenge against coal mining in state park.

“… If anyone outside the Turnbull government believed that the world market for coal was going to grow then the Adani project would not need subsidies from Australian taxpayers. There is a simple reason that the private banks won't underwrite the project,”

writes [paywall] Jonathan van Rooyen from The Infrastructure Fund (TIF) in the Australian Financial Review. TIF bought a 99-year lease over the Newcastle coal port in 2014.

Investment fund owner of Newcastle #coal port opposes Aust govt subsidy for #Adani's #Carmichael project #auspol http://www.afr.com/opinion/columnists/federal-bankrolling-of-adani-will-damage-other-australian-coal-regions-20170426-gvsrcz https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C-UboIsXcAEl7oo.jpg

Companies + Markets

Coal India slashes coal production target: Coal India – which produces about 80 per cent of the country’s domestic coal – has slashed its 2017/2018 production target by 60 million tonnes to 600 million tonnes due to sluggish power sector demand. Coal India produced 554 million tonnes in 2016/17 while its mines can currently produce about 600 million tonnes. While Coal India’s production capacity has grown rapidly since the election of Prime Minister Modi in 2015, according to an anonymous source, it now has 69 million tonnes of coal stockpiled at its mines, with power stations holding a further 26 million tonnes. (Livemint)

Canadian utility accelerates coal retirements: TransAlta, a private utility in Alberta, will close one 280 MW unit at the Sundance power station by the start of 2018, two years ahead of a schedule agreed to last year with the federal government. A second 280 MW unit will also be closed by 2018 but the utility is seeking approval to have it on reserve between 2019 and 2021. The company is proposing to convert four other coal units at the Sundance plant and two others at Keephills plant to gas by 2023. The six units slated for conversion have a combined capacity of 2400 MW. (TransAlta, Pembina Institute)

New Mexico to go coal-free by 2031: A draft plan by the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) proposes the state exit all its coal-fired generation by 2031 and replace it with renewable energy and more flexible generators. This, the plan states, “will save money in the long run.” Under the plan PNM, which is already committed to closing two units of the 1800 MW San Juan plant this year, will close the last two units in 2022 when a coal supply contract expires. PNM would also exit its 200 MW share of the 1540 MW Four Corners plant when coal contracts expire in 2031. (Platts, Public Service Company of New Mexico)

India and Indonesia launch energy collaboration: At the first 'India Indonesia Energy Forum' the governments of India and Indonesia agreed to explore collaboration in key areas of energy policy - with India seeking to provide expertise in LED lighting and renewable energy. India’s Minister for Power, Piyush Goyal, has also requested changes in Indonesia’s coal policy. The nature of the changes sought is not publicly known but may relate to the country’s export price benchmark which has hit companies such as Adani Power and Tata Power. Goyal has also requested Indonesia join the International Solar Alliance, a pro-solar coalition of 121 countries launched by India’s Prime Minister Modi in November 2015. (Times of India)

India’s Supreme Court decision poses big risk to Adani Power: In the wake of a Supreme Court decision overturning its ability to pass higher Indonesian coal costs on to power purchasers, Tata Power has flagged it may sell off non-core assets to support the Tata Mundra project. It also insists the possibility of additional units at the plant is “under review” due to lower power demand. However, Adani Power is in a worse predicament having already counted the compensatory tariff as income – which it will now have to write off even though it is greater than the company’s total value. (Business Standard, Economic Times)

Colombian Government aims to block local government bans on mining: Colombia’s Minister for Mines and Energy, German Arce, has revealed the government is discussing potential legislation to overturn the ability of mayors and tribunals to block mining projects. Arce claimed legislation would “take away part of the uncertainty that's been created by the activism of a few tribunals and courts” and referendums where local communities have voted to reject mining projects. (Reuters)


Adani: Remote Prospect: Carmichael Status Update 2017, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, April 2017. (A media release on the report is here and a blog with the key points is here.)

This 57-page report provides a detailed assessment of the debt-laden corporate arms of the Adani empire and concludes the company’s proposed Carmichael mine is not viable given its fragile finances, the prevailing trends in India’s electricity sector and the global coal market.

“Future CO2 emissions and electricity generation from proposed coal-fired power plants in India”, Earth’s Future, April 25, 2017.

This paper conducted by CoalSwarm and the University of California at Irvine concludes India can both meet its future power demand and its climate commitments if new coal plants are restricted to only those already under construction.